Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Greenhorn Getting a New Bridge and Trail
Jess Simon, who builds trails for Titus Trails, has even traveled to Austria to learn about the ways they build trails in the European Alps.
Wednesday, June 26, 2024


For more than a week Jess Simon has been slowly making his way along the side of a hill in Greenhorn, his mini-excavator digging into the grass, tearing up chunks of dirt as he goes.

His mountain bike lies in the freshly turned dirt he’s left behind, ready to test out the trail when he feels he has smoothed it out enough.

When finished, the half-mile of trail he is working on will offer a new way to access the Imperial Gulch Trail away from a riparian area where beaver have staked their claim.

Jess Simon’s bike makes a good testing tool and a fast way to get to and from the parking lot.

The trail building is part of a project between Wood River Trails Coalition, the Ketchum Ranger District and Titus Trails to reroute popular trails in Greenhorn Gulch out of wetlands to improve beaver and aquatic habitat, flood plain and mitigate the need to do trail and bridge restoration following floods.

It is being funded by a $110,000 grant the WRTC secured through the American Trails Legacy program. Volunteers will be invited to help hand-finish the trail work on July 23, and there will be a volunteer seeding and planting party come fall

“It’s a phenomenal project that is working on addressing the trail sustainability issue in that area,” said Liz Pedersen, development director for the Wood River Trails Coalition.

“We’re replacing three bridges that are very expensive to install and maintain with one,” said Sara Gress, the executive director of WRTC. “I imagine these trails originally were old logging and mining roads that went through the creek disturbing beaver habitat. We’re giving the creek back to the beavers.”

Brian Vaughan’s Titus Trails reconstructed the Alden Gulch trail after fire ravaged the old trail.

The project kickstarted into high gear last summer when one of two bridges allowing pedestrian access over the creek flowing below the Greenhorn parking lot was upended by high water and snowmelt. Pedestrians could continue to access one bridge in the area, but were forced to ford high, fast moving water and scramble up a steep bank where the other bridge had been until water lowered enough that they could cross on stones.

Trail workers determined that the other bridge in that area was nearing the end of its useful lifespan, and the bridge just beyond the Imperial Trail junction was beginning to show signs of age, as well, with beavers encroaching upon it.

The partners quickly built a reroute traversing a hill on the other side of the creek as spring hiking season began. When Simon is finished with the trail he is working on, a fully engineered $40,000 bridge like a new one in Adams Gulch that can be used by handcycles will be installed just above the old bridge above the Imperial Trail junction. The accessible bridge is being built in Portland and should be installed at the end of July, said Gress.

The Greenhorn Gulch trail system is the second most popular trail area on the Ketchum Ranger District, after Adams Gulch. Last year 22,509 trail detections were noted by the camouflaged trail counter hanging along the old trail.

The new trail should be finished in another week, according to Sara Gress.

It is popular with locals and with visitors who come from Boise and elsewhere to ride its smooth trails. The parking lot has been full this summer with hikers, mountain bikers, eBikers, motorized trail bikers and equestrians unloading horses.

Some have suggested it would be nice to keep the lower trail to alleviate some of the congestion on the new reroute above the beaver ponds. Two hikers counted 15 cyclists on the trail as they and others walked the quarter-mile span last weekend. Everyone was respectful, but it was congested.

Gress, however, notes that trail users had just one trail before. After crews install the new bridge, the trail will be widened, she added.

Pedersen said that congestion can be avoided.

The new reroute is a little rough right now but should be good by the time it opens.

“I was out the other day and didn’t see a single person until 8:30 a.m.,” she said. “If you want to be out there when it’s not so busy, you can go to the Wood River Trails Coalition website and see when the busiest times of the day are.”

Users have praised the new trail as it will melt out quicker than the old trail, which remained muddy longer than other trails in the system. The reroute does not sport the beautiful vaseflowers, morning glories and other wildflowers found, but it offers nice views looking down on beaver lodges.

While the Imperial reroute connects to the old trail above switchbacks lined by wildflowers, Simon says the reroute is lined with wildflowers, as well.

Pedersen said the reclaimed habitat will provide groundwater recharge and increase instream flows. It will also provide pools and riffles, which will benefit whatever aquatic organisms might be on the ponds.

The old trail will disappear once habitat is reclaimed, she added.

“Ideally, we will see the beavers move down to the next natural choke,” she added. “We’ll see more consistent stream flows in those tributaries that can hold water for longer. We’ll see lovely marshy meadows, which are really critical habitat for ground nesting birds and other wildlife.”

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