This story ran in the Idaho Business Review recently. Reprinted with permission.
A bicycle trail connecting the Valley County towns of McCall, Donnelly, and Cascade is one step closer thanks to a grant to help determine its feasibility. The study is slated for spring, and the trail could be completed by as early as next summer.
Valley County Pathways has been working to develop bike trails in the area over decommissioned rail lines, but was stymied because private property owners have been using that land and didn’t provide recreation access, said board vice president Steve Stuebner. “We realized we would need to look at other corridors as our highest priority,” he said.
Instead, the organization started considering a narrow singletrack pathway for biking along the right-of-way of existing county roads. This is where the feasibility study comes in, because the area gets a lot of water with snowmelt and there are drainage ditches along the roads. Also, the extent of the county right-of-way isn’t clear, Stuebner said. So with a $15,000 grant from the National Association of Realtors, awarded in October, as well as some matching funds, Valley County Pathways is working with the International Mountain Biking Association, or IMBA, to determine whether the project is workable.
Although the IMBA is doing the work, the proposed trail won’t be limited to mountain bikers, Stuebner said. “Our whole vision for that Valley County pedestrian pathways is this should be open to anybody, at any level – walkers, runners, bicyclists, potentially horseback riding,” he said. A similar system, the North Valley Rail Trail near McCall, has been developed for winter use such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing as well, he said.
The city of Cascade, Kelly’s Whitewater Park and Valley County Pathways are working on a 12-foot pathway that extends for 2.25 miles along the Payette River between Water’s Edge RV Park and Fisher Pond Park, according to the Valley County Pathways website.
A singletrack trail accommodates one bike; a doubletrack trail has two parallel tracks and can be used by four-wheeled vehicles. “It’s a dirt, meandering single track,” said Andrew Mentzer, executive director of the West Central Mountains Economic Development Council, a nonprofit regional economic planning body for the west central mountains, including Valley County and Meadows Valley in Adams County. Mentzer’s group suggested the idea for the trail. Typically, such tracks are functional for about five months of the year, from June through October, outside of winter and “mud season,” he said.
While there are some singletrack trails in the Boise foothills, in Sun Valley, and in the mountains around Tamarack, “to do it on the valley floor is really a brand-new concept,” said Stuebner. Singletrack is considerably cheaper than other alternatives, and a track built specifically for mountain biking is more exciting. “Folks like IMBA can build in some cool trail flow features to make the riding experience more interesting for people – bank corners, little jumps,” he said.
On the other hand, a trail in the valley floor is going to be easier for people than a trail on the mountain where there are rocks and roots to contend with, Stuebner said. “It’s a base on which you start,” he explained. “Then they can build their skills and go from there.”
The grant was put together by the Mountain Central Association of Realtors, according to president Cory Corbet, a realtor at Century 21. “We liked the concept of getting more trail systems for bikes, and connecting communities from Donnelly, Cascade, and McCall, and making it a trail-friendly venue,” she said. “We were excited to hear they had this feasibility study they were doing.”
The singletrack system is a great benefit to the community, especially to people who want to commute between the towns via bicycle, said Corbet, who said she is a bike rider herself. Donnelly is about 13 miles from each of McCall and Cascade, she said, adding that the trail would also be a perfect venue for electric-assist bikes as well.
IMBA will take about four days to identify routes and drainage patterns, then a few weeks to produce the actual study, Mentzer said. “You could see us getting underway on construction within days of getting approval from the county,” he said. “It could be 2019, it could be this summer.”