CAMAS — Steve Corrie of Vancouver lunged forward with his hoe and raked the 2-inch-minus rock from the back of a Polaris 6×6 haul vehicle. Rocky Hendricks of Cougar crept the machine forward and tilted the bed to help with the spreading.
“It’s good for me to be breathing this hard, Corrie said, as he added a few more feet to some of the first new motorized vehicle trail to be built in Southwest Washington in many years.
The Jones Creek Trail Riders Association, Pistons Wild Motorsports club and the state Department of Natural Resources are in the fledgling stage of building 10 miles of single-track (motorcycle), 18 miles of double-track (quads) and 30.5 miles of four-wheel-drive trail in the Yacolt Burn State Forest.
Motorcycle and quad riders will be able also to ride on the four-wheel-drive trails.
“I’m a volunteer,” said Mike Ames, president of the Jones Creek Trail Riders Association. “To have invested over seven years waiting for this, yeah, it’s awfully gratifying now to get out and do it.”
Crystal Crowder, president and founding member of Pistons Wild Motorsports, was working a few miles away on four-wheel-drive trail.
“There are no sanctioned 4×4 trails in all of Southwest Washington,” Crowder said. “Four-by-four travel is only permitted on gravel roads. These will be the first local, legal, 4×4 trails made available to the public in decades.”
The DNR has long had the Jones Creek trail network of off-road-vehicle loops north of Camas. The network — for motorcycles and quads — is open from May 1 through Nov. 30, then closed during the wet season for resource protection.
Seven years ago, planning began on a trails and recreation plan for the western portion of the Yacolt Burn State Forest. The document was unveiled in June 2010, but site-specific planning, acquisition of permits for bridges and culverts and other procedural issues followed.
The Yacolt Burn State Forest is dotted with user-created trails not sanctioned by the land management agency.
Rex Hapala, recreation district manager for the Pacific Cascade region of the Department of Natural Resources, said the first step is construction of six miles of trail and abandonment of six miles of non-approved routes.
“The plan calls for a one-to-one ratio of construction to abandonment,” Hapala said.
An early part of the plan was the 3-mile Thrillium mountain bike trail from the Larch Mountain area down to the Cold Creek Bridge on the DNR L-1000 road.
Thrillium is in the final stages of construction and the plan calls for a 20-vehicle upper parking lot and 40-vehicle lower lot to be added.
Hapala said a $160,800 grant from the state Recreation Conservation Office is helping finance the new trails. A grant also was obtained and is being used for the mountain bike trails.
Volunteers from Jones Creek association are helping build the single- and double-track trails. Volunteers from Pistons Wild are helping build the 4×4 routes.
Hapala said it is uncertain when the new trails will open. The DNR wants to make sure the trails meet the design elements before they open officially.
Crowder said Pistons Wild was formed seven years ago for the primary purpose of bringing back 4×4 trails to the Yacolt Burn. Club members and helpers have spend 1,800 volunteer hours building Yacolt Burn trails in the past month.
Money from the grant has paid the costs associated with getting permits for all bridges and culverts plus helps with material costs for the volunteers, Hapala said.
“We have some great volunteers that in their day lives are in the construction field,” he added.
In late May, volunteers from the Jones Creek association and CATS (Cougar Area Trail Seekers) added 0.8 mile of new double-track trail to the existing B Loop in the Jones Creek area.
Part of the route uses the grade from a long-ago logging road. Concrete blocks covered with 2-inch rock to reinforce selected spots and mitigate resource issues.
“Any place where it’s steep or muddy we’ll put that block in,” Ames said, “It’s not really favored by the riders all that much but it’s really the only thing that works. Otherwise, you end up with big ruts.”
Much of the effort in future years will be in the Four Corners area where DNR roads L1000, L1400 and L1500 intersect. The 2010 recreation plan proposes an eventual campground in the Four Corners area.
“When we start toward Four Corners there are several bridges that have to be put in,” Ames said. “The bridges are big. They are 4×4 bridges that everybody will use. They are major projects.”
Ten miles are planned in phase 1 of the 4×4 trails, Crowder said.
“Some of the planned trails already are in existence (but not sanctioned) and will just take some fine tuning and be ready to open quickly,” Crowder said. “Others can be quite labor intensive with heavy equipment as we carve new paths across clear cuts and through timber.”
Phase 1 does “offer up access to some spectacular panoramic views on the ridge lines and refreshing paths through denser areas of the first,” she said.
The 4×4 trails also will be available to UTV’s, also known as side-by-sides, she said.
“As UTVs have progressively grown in size over the years they have been unceremoniously squeezed out of the ATV trails,” Crowder added.
Mike Hayden of Cougar, a former worker in the Camas paper mill, is one of volunteer laborers.
“We’re looking for trails to ride, so we came over to help them,” Hayden said.
Ames said more volunteers are needed. The Jones Creek Trail Riders Association has about 30 to 40 active members.
“Trying to come out here and build anything with half a dozen people is a long process,” he said.
Ames is hopeful new trails will jump-start enthusiasm for riding.
“Riders are going to get juiced about anything new,” he said.