Though the outward signs aren’t apparent, spring is not that far off, which means that Pattee Canyon, among other popular local recreation areas, will be subject to the tread of horses and mountain bikes rather than cross-country skis. It also means that the Forest Service’s Missoula Ranger District will be busy once again trying to make sure that local bikers and other trail users stay on something resembling a trail. Problems arose last spring when it was discovered that a small cadre of local bikers had been busying themselves with the hasty construction of rails, ramps, and other stunt props geared toward a new variety of bomber biking. To address the problem, Don Carroll, the Forest Service’s local point man for recreational issues, spearheaded efforts to have those structures dismantled. In addition, trailheads at Pattee Canyon, Blue Mountain, and The Rattlesnake National Recreation Area have been posted with signs reminding all users to stay on existing trails and to refrain from any ad hoc construction projects.
Yet some bikers who ride in Pattee Canyon have also been among the first to notice a logging operation that started there last fall that sends a steady stream of trucks and equipment up Larch Camp Road. That cut, according to Jim Hurst of Owens and Hurst Lumber in Eureka, was just recently completed. Owens and Hurst owns some 400 acres in Pattee Canyon and the Forest Service was only minimally involved in those logging operations. “The only thing they’re required to do from us is get a permit to run trucks and equipment up Larch Camp Road,” says Carroll.
“That’s all done for the year, so people ought to be able to ride or whatever up there without any conflicts. We tried to leave a park-like setting,” says Hurst. “Most adjacent property owners were happy we were in there, reducing the fire danger.”
To ensure that all trail users get a fair shake, Carroll has taken on an effort to inventory all the trails on a new map. “What we started last fall and what we’ll continue through the summer is an inventory of all existing trails,” notes Carroll. “And we’re getting input from hikers, horse riders, all types of users. Once we have that done, the next step is to look at what kind of trails should remain. After the inventory is done, we’ll look at the existing trail systems and try to decide what we want for a future in those places,” says Carroll.