Two outdoor recreation projects in the Grant County area received high rankings from an Oregon Parks and Recreation Department advisory committee for this year’s Recreational Trails Program grant funding.

The Malheur National Forest Blue Mountain Ranger District’s $218,804 request for construction of the Magone Trail Network ranked sixth out of 14 entries in the nonmotorized trails division.

The Eastern Oregon Trail Alliance deserves the credit for the trail project, said Jared Bowman, the forest’s north zone recreation manager. The Forest Service applied for the grant on behalf of the alliance because the group had not existed for three years, which was a grant requirement.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be $361,679. Plans call for a 28-mile trail, of which 5 miles will be rehabilitated trail and improvements to the Nipple Butte Trail, Bowman said.

The remaining 23 miles includes road-to-trail conversions that the alliance and Forest Service will undertake with assistance from the North Fork John Day Watershed Council’s youth crew and new trail built by professional mountain bike trail contractors. The grant funding will be used to pay for the latter work, Bowman said.

Volunteers from the alliance built several hundred feet of trail in 2017. The alliance, Forest Service and youth crew created a few hundred feet in 2018, Bowman said.

Progress was slow. At that rate, the 28-mile long trail could take 56 years to complete, which was unacceptable, Bowman said. The grant would enable the project to be completed in two years, he said.

The goal is to augment recreation opportunities in the Magone Lake area.

“The trail network will be an amazing asset for this area — a destination feature, to which urbanites in the region will likely travel, not to mention locals,” Bowman said. “We are hoping to capture some of the flow-through bicycle traffic in the area and increase the amount of time visitors spend in the John Day Valley.”

Bowman said he and fellow north zone recreation planner Kevin Green were working with the alliance board to analyze the trail system, develop phases for construction and set goals for 2019. The alliance meets on the second Wednesday of each month at the Outpost Pizza Pub & Grill in John Day, he noted.

“We hope this will increase enthusiasm and volunteer support as we move into the second year of funding,” Bowman said.

A $160,000 request to fund a new building to house the snowmobile trail grooming machine at Idlewild Sno-Park in Harney County was ranked fifth out of five requests in the motorized trails division.

Harney County Snowmobile Club president Darrell Williams said plans call for constructing a 40-by-60-foot building at the parking lot that was paved about four years ago. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $200,000. Club members intend to provide in-kind services for the match.

The groomer is owned by the Oregon State Snowmobile Association with support from the Oregon Department of Transportation, Williams said. Each snowmobile club maintains and operates a groomer.

Without a shed, volunteer operators had been parking the Idlewild groomer in a secure place in the woods or at a club member’s cabin, Williams said. There have been no vandalism incidents, but club members wanted a more secure means to store the machine, he said.

While the past winter was a drought year with poor coverage for snowmobiling, the Idlewild machine groomed 1,200-1,300 miles two winters ago, Williams said.

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