Just like Robert Frost, crews working on building new mountain bike-running trails on Spence Mountain have miles to go before they sleep.
Work on building another six to seven miles of trail, which will create an 11- to 13-mile loop route, resumed Tuesday by crews from Dirt Mechanics, a professional trail building contractor from Bend. Dirt Mechanics previously created three miles of trail from the developing trailhead off Highway 140 East in 2014 and added another two miles earlier this year.
The current work, a mostly east-west section, will tie into the two previously completed sections to create the loop route. Depending on weather, trail building could continue until shortly before the Christmas holidays. If snowed out this winter, Dirt Mechanics co-owner Paul Lissette said crews will complete the section next spring.
Paul Thomasberg, Dirt Mechanic’s other owner and the trail designer, said recent rain and cool temperatures have helped the three-member crew. Because most of the new section is relatively flat, he said it’s hoped work can move speedily forward and be done in December. Thomasberg laid out the trail after scouting the area, which is near Spence Mountain’s summit and features with dramatic views of Upper Klamath Lake, by motorcycle.
Checking in with Thomasberg and Lissette were Drew Honzel and Dennis Taugher of the Klamath Trails Alliance, the group overseeing the development of Spence Mountain and other regional multi-use trails. The 100-member group includes cyclists, hikers, runners, cross country skiers and outdoor users.
Honzel, who is coordinating the Spence Mountain project, said a recently developed master plan envisions eventually having 53.3 miles of trails, up from the previous estimated of 30 to 40 miles. A recent map shows proposed trails, including one that will follow Upper Klamath Lake’s northwest section to eastern side and curl back into Eagle Ridge.
Although the still unsigned Spence Mountain trailhead off Highway 140 East is the primary access point, the future route will include three other taking-off points, including the Old Eagle and Shoal Water trailheads and the Eagle Point trailhead that’s part of Klamath County’s Eagle Ridge Park.
“In order to attract mountain bike tourism you need a trail network of at least 15 to 20 miles,” Honzel said of adding new trails at Spence. “Once we get to 20 miles, we’ll have critical mass.”
Honzel believes the combination of mountain bike/multi-use trails at Spence Mountain, Moore Park and Brown Mountain should help entice visitors to make overnight stays.
“We estimate 250 overnight visitor stays by 2017 after completion of 20 miles of trail in phase 3,” Honzel said in a recent Klamath County Tourism Grant proposal. “Out of town visitor stays should increase by 30 percent per year as our trail network grows and the work gets out.”
During a Wednesday tour of the recently resumed trail work, he and Taugher said they expect Spence Mountain will serve as a venue for competitive trail running and mountain bike races, which will likely be held during shoulder seasons – not summer – to encourage discounted lodging. Based on mountain bike demographics, the targeted audience is 77 percent male, with two-thirds between 35 and 54 years old and 80 percent having a bachelor’s degree or higher. Two-thirds have an annual household income of $75,000 or higher.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received,” Honzel said, noting the group recently received a $10,000 Klamath County Tourism Grant. In addition, the group raised more than $24,000 from 62 individuals, businesses and foundations in 2014. A major donation was a multi-year commitment from the Sky Lakes Medical Center for $25,500. Volunteers have helped build and groom sections of the trail, something he expects will continue.
Thomasberg said he’s worked with several volunteers “who worked their butts off” during the various work phases.
Honzel and Taugher said assistance has also come from the Oregon Department of Transportation, which has created and graveled a parking lot off Highway 140. Ed Beverly, a Trails Alliance volunteer, is working with ODOT on completing the trailhead parking area. Signs indicating the parking area will be installed by ODOT.
“We’re really pleased with all the help and cooperation,” Honzel said. “It’s a great project and we have a lot of great people working with us.”
Financial sponsors for the ongoing Spence Mountain trail network include: EcoSolar & Electric, Linkville Lopers, Great Basin Insurance, Windermere Realty, Isler of Klamath Falls, Rodeo’s Pizza, Hutch’s Bicycles, Tucker Tucker & Gaillis Dental Group, Asana Yoga & Sole, Jeld-Wen Foundation, and Sky Lake Foundation.
Gift in-kind Sponsors include: Rhine-Cross Engineering, Adkin’s Consulting Engineering, Oregon Department of Forestry, Running Y Ranch Resort, and Base Camp Brewing.
Partners with the Klamath Trails Alliance are JWTR (landowner), Dirt Mechanics (professional trail builder), Discover Klamath, (marketing), and IMBA (education and training).