By Polly Keary, Editor
Off-road vehicle enthusiasts can once again take to the trails at Reiter Foothills, since the DNR opened new trails for 4x4s, motorcycles and ATVs on weekends starting June 14.
There are only about five miles of developed trail, split up among the three user groups, but organizers say it’s enough to justify a trip to the new park.
“As a rider, you may ask yourself, ‘Five miles of trails? Is that really worth it?’ and we can tell you, ‘Yes!’ But don’t take our word for it — we’re challenging you to come out and see for yourself,” said a blog post on the DNR blog Ear to the Ground, a page dedicated to the ongoing creation of the ORV park.
So far, there are about two miles of motorcycle trails that link to about a mile of ATV trail. There is also a 2,000 foot obstacle course for 4×4 high clearance vehicles. While 2,000 feet may not seem like a long road, it is choked with massive boulders and stumps, meaning vehicles pass over it at a crawl, if they manage to get through at all.
On a recent trip, one reporter described being told to “brace with authority” as the driver inched over a huge boulder pile, on the verge of rolling the doorless Jeep, before heading straight for a four-foot tall stump that left one wheel dangling in the air.
Reiter Trails, or “Reiter Pit,” as it has been known since the 1960s, has historically consisted of miles of track carved willy-nilly into the steep slopes by the wheels of ORVs that thronged the busy but unofficial park.
But when the erosion became pronounced enough to concern environmental stewards, the park was closed, to the great consternation of enthusiasts and the local business community alike.
The state, DNR and county agreed to work to reopen the park as an official county park, complete with a nice parking lot, restrooms, signage and well-developed trails. But when the economy collapsed, a sudden dearth of public funds seemed as if it might torpedo the project.
However, concerted lobbying by area activists, in conduction with a large amount of volunteer labor, kept the park development project alive.
A new plan for trails to accommodate everyone from hikers and horseback riders to monster trucks was developed, and for months, in all sorts of weather, local volunteers and crews from the Washington Conservation Corps doggedly dug out new trails and lined them with nearly 3,000 tons of rock to make the first three miles of trail.
It is a bare beginning of what the county plans to develop over the next decade. Ultimately, they plan for about 30 miles of track for motorized sports, as well as a trail and bridge to allow hiking from Reiter to Wallace Falls State Park.
The park is open from 2 to 6 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
The park is closed during the week so crews can continue working on new trails. The DNR asks that people using the park stick to the developed trails. Any use of trails still under construction or closed is going to require repair, which will push the overall cost of the project up and will delay the creation of new trails.