After a year and a half of meetings, public surveys and planning, the Challis trails committee, along with state and federal partners, broke ground Monday morning on an ATV trail that will replace a trail that parallels U.S. Highway 93 between Challis Dump Road and the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park.
Brian DiLenge, trails specialist for Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, broke in a new Sweco trail cat and had roughed in the new trail by Monday evening. Trails committee member, volunteer and seasonal Forest Service employee Dusty Parent followed behind to smooth the new trail tread, alternating between walking with a shovel to remove the biggest rocks and pulling a truck tire behind an ATV to further smooth things out.
DiLenge and Parent mapped the trail on the fly using a smartphone GPS to keep them on newly deeded city property south of Dump Road. The trail is on former Bureau of Land Management land west of the highway, most of it deeded to the city earlier this year. The route goes above Iver Strand’s equipment and rock storage yard.
“Iver doesn’t know it yet, but he donated the worn-out tire,” Parent joked. Strand is making a much more substantial donation of his equipment to do dirt work on the new parking lot and trailhead just south of Dump Road, Parent said.
The Sweco trail cat had zero hours of use when it arrived in Challis Monday and the varied terrain gave it a good breaking in, DiLenge said. It has a Caterpillar engine but is much smaller than a Caterpillar bulldozer. Its small blade is designed to construct trails up to 50 inches wide to accommodate ATVs, he said.
Phil McNeal, south zone trails coordinator for the Salmon-Challis National Forest and a trail committee member, stopped by to hike the trail and see the progress DiLenge and Parent had made in less than a day.
“The trails committee is really getting some stuff done,” McNeal said, “thanks to Dusty and Brian.”
“I think it’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for the community and visitors to recreate on,” Parent said.
Almost as soon as he shut his trail cat down at the south end of the trail, DiLenge planned to publish the new trail map on the state’s website, www.trails.idaho.gov, and declare the new trail open to ATV traffic. Parent, DiLenge and McNeal planned a final walk-through Wednesday and hoped to declare the trail open to the public by the end of this week or the start of next.
There are plans to eventually obliterate or rehabilitate the older, user-created trail along the highway, DiLenge said.
The new family-friendly trail winds through the sagebrush terrain with gentler grades and more scenic views for trail runners, mountain bikers and ATV riders. The multi-use trail is part of a larger system of existing and planned trails in Custer County that the trails committee hopes will diversify the economy and attract year-round visitors.