Badlands trail changes finalized

More miles, improvements for wilderness east of Bend

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin / @DylanJDarling

Online

To see the Bureau of Land Management plans for the Badlands Wilderness online, go to http://j.mp/1g4Lvn1.

Visitors to the Badlands Wilderness will be able to do more loop hikes, runs or horseback rides, according to plans completed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for the fledgling wilderness east of Bend.

The changes to trails and trailheads are part of a proposed BLM management plan for the Badlands, which Congress designated in 2009.

“I think that it will offer more diversity of landscapes,” said Berry Phelps, BLM outdoor recreation planner in Prineville.

The BLM early this week finalized plans for changes in and near the Badlands. BLM officials had used GIS equipment to determine the popular recreation spot has 43 miles of designated trails. Planned changes include converting nearly 7 miles of old two-track road into trail and creating just over 2 miles of new trail, bringing the total to 53 miles of trails.

In explaining why she gave her approval for the changes, Molly Brown, field manager for the BLM in Prineville, wrote that they will preserve the untrammeled qualities of the Badlands.

“Another consideration was how well the actions improve the recreational experience: minimize social conflict and rehabilitate old two-track routes or trails not part of the designated trail system,” she wrote.

The plans can be appealed until March 11, according to the BLM. Phelps said the trail changes would likely depend on volunteers to complete.

In creating a more defined trail system, the BLM plans to restore 63 miles of old two-track road that is not currently designated as trail.

The BLM also plans some changes for most of the trailheads surrounding the 29,000-acre Badlands. The trailheads are on land overseen by the BLM but are not in the wilderness itself. The Larry Chitwood and Tumulus trailheads will be moved to provide buffers to nearby privately owned land. Gravel will be added to the parking surfaces at the trailheads, except for the Badlands Rock Trailhead, which already has a natural hard surface. The BLM also plans to remove the little-used High Desert Trailhead on the eastern edge of the Badlands.

Phelps said there is no schedule yet for the trailhead changes and they would depend on when funding is available. He didn’t have an estimate for costs.

Along with gravel, many of the trailheads would get parking spots big enough for trucks pulling trailers, as well as turnaround space, according to the BLM plan. These changes are welcome to horseback riders, said Kim McCarrel, co-chairwoman of the Central Oregon chapter of the Oregon Equestrian Trails, a nonprofit advocating for horse trails. She also liked the plan for trail changes.

“It creates some nice loop options,” she said. “I think equestrians are going to be delighted with those changes.”

The changes planned by the BLM will improve the Badlands while keeping the “rustic charm” of the wilderness that has made it so popular, said Gena Goodman-Campbell, Central Oregon wilderness coordinator for Oregon Natural Desert Association. The Bend-based nonprofit campaigned for the creation of the wilderness, which is about a 15-minute drive from Bend.

“It hopefully will remain similar to the Badlands that a lot of people know and love,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com