Grant provides new way to blaze trails

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Photo by MANDI BATEMAN 9B Trails received a grant for $24,000, allowing them to purchase this excavator, that will greatly decrease the amount of time it takes the volunteers to create trails.

BONNERS FERRY — 9B Trails recently received a grant that will significantly increase the productivity of its volunteers, thereby improve the time it will take to create the trails in and around Bonners Ferry.

9B Trails, established in March of 2018, is a nonprofit 501(c) entity that is made up of outdoor enthusiasts, with a goal to provide the community non-motorized public trails in Boundary County. They aim to encourage childhood health and social involvement by providing safe routes to school and enjoyment of the outdoors, as well as to encourage tourism and growth, furthering economic development through a connected trail system.

“9B Trails is a small group of trail enthusiasts who are dedicated to building, maintaining, and improving trails in the Boundary County and northern Idaho,” said 9B Trails Ex-officio Board Member and Volunteer, Larry M. Davidson. “This work is entirely dependent upon volunteer effort and takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to complete.”

Building trails by hand is a slow process, one that can take a physical and mental toll on the much-needed volunteers. A recent $24,000 grant changes everything, allowing them to purchase an excavator.

“Currently, our volunteers are out there building trail by hand, so this will help tremendously,” said 9B Trails Treasurer Tess Rae.

“Since volunteerism is so crucial to the success of our trail building work, we decided that the volunteers’ efforts could be better utilized if our group could purchase some essential trail building equipment to assist with the most grueling aspects of the job,” said Davidson. “To further that goal, we began actively seeking financial assistance from institutional donors in order to buy the needed equipment.”

The Equinox Foundation answered that call, providing the funds needed to purchase a Kubota Ultra-Compact K008-3 excavator, trailer, job-box, and ancillary tools and equipment needed to support the excavator’s operation.

“Equinox Foundation has long been a strong supporter of projects in northern Idaho that are beneficial to the public’s interest and enjoyment,” said Davidson. “Without strong support from the local community, and institutions like Equinox, projects like what 9B Trails are pursuing would simply not be achievable.”

Davidson explained that although small in size, the excavator has all the functional capabilities of a much larger machine.

“The excavator will enable us to significantly increase the amount of trail we can create in a given amount of time, with the machine doing the heavy backbreaking work while allowing volunteers to concentrate their efforts on finish work, thereby resulting in greater volunteer satisfaction and engendering even more volunteerism,” he said.

The time saved is significant. According to the International Mountain Biking Association, they estimate that a three person crew, utilizing only hand tools, is typically able to build approximately 200 feet of trail per day. The use of an excavator increases that ability by five to ten times. The results will be more trails for the community in a much shorter period of time.

The excavator, which was purchased from Boundary Tractor, is under three feet wide, making it ideal for trail work. It arrived recently and was assembled by Boundary Tractor. When 9B Trails picks it up, they will begin work on at least three of the five projects that they currently have on their schedule.

“These projects, in total, affect about 2,000 acres of ground upon which we intend to build and maintain no less than 30 miles of new trail, all of which will be designed for hikers, bikers, and Nordic users of all ages and abilities,” said Davidson.

With new equipment, the 9B Trails volunteers are ready to tackle the trails in a considerably more efficient manner that will save them time and energy, providing the community with more trails to fully enjoy Boundary County.

9B Trails has five projects proposed

Although 9B Trails has only been in existence since March 2018, in its first year of operation it has identified five projects for which it has received tentative and/or final contractual approval.

These projects include: 1. Kootenai River Trail to Riverside Park, and 2. Kootenai River to City Lagoons near downtown Bonners Ferry, which require approval from the City of Bonners Ferry, Boundary County, the Idaho Department of Transportation, and the Union Pacific Railroad, with work hoped to commence in the summer of 2019;

3. Section 16 Trail, a projected 11 mile, year-round trail system located ¼ mile south of the City’s golf course, consisting of beginner to intermediate terrain and requiring approval from the Idaho Department of Lands (contract is in final negotiations). In anticipation of contractual approval, IDL has approved initial marking and clearing of the trail route and with dirt work slated to commence later this summer;

4. Mudslide Trail, located on the North Hill providing non-motorized access between North Hill residents, the Kootenai River to Riverside Park trail, and Bonners Ferry, requiring approval from the Idaho Transportation Department and Boundary County with work hoped to commence in late summer 2019; and

5. Enchanted Forest trail, an expected 30+ mile trail system located on the outskirts of Bonners Ferry providing spectacular views of the area, which project was commenced last year under a potential 60-year lease agreement with a private landowner. Construction to date has created approximately 3.5 miles of completed trail.

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