A dynamic squad of outdoor enthusiasts is creating a trail in the wilderness of Spring Valley Park for bikers and hikers to enjoy for generations.
The group is led by Salem Area Trail Alliance (SATA) president Jeff McNamee who, when we visited, was carving a trail from a woody forest hillside with a small earthmover.
SATA “officially adopted” Spring Valley, a small park north of West Salem in Polk County, in 2011. McNamee says that since then “volunteers have built about four miles of trails,” including the ¾ mile stretch he is now working on.
“By the end of summer or early fall” McNamee believes the group will have “trail maps and trail signage” placed in the park. “It’s a great little escape after work or for a short adventure on the weekend. We built the system with runners, hikers, beginning mountain bikers and families in mind.”
SATA promotes outdoor activity and exercise in the Salem area by actually constructing trails, in partnership with whichever government agencies control the land, for others to use.
The group numbers about sixty members, but has a mailing list of 350 people who visit the website and a much-used Facebook page. Last month about 25 people showed up for a work party at Silver Falls Park where SATA is supporting trail proponents in Silverton. The trail they are working on is now nearly eight miles long.
“The benefits of trails are numerous and well documented,” McNamee says. “Trails serve as a place to stay physically active. Studies have shown that if you live close to a trail you are more likely to use it and meet national physical activity guidelines.”
Steve Williams, another SATA member, says he participates on trail-building projects near Salem “because I love to get outside and I want to get outside closer to home.” With a busy schedule and a young family, Williams says, “I can’t get out all day but I can have shorter adventures closer to home to share with my family.”
Williams feels that the work of creating trails is important. “It’s something you can do for your community, and look back at and say, ‘hey, I was a part of that’”
Because McNamee appreciates the way trails and trail events bring tourism dollars to areas, he is also working with several wineries and vineyards near Spring Valley. This is because, in the future, SATA hopes to develop a hiking, biking and equestrian trail “that has the potential to connect over 20 wineries and vineyards,” McNamee says. He is serving on a Travel Oregon Destination Development Steering committee that hopes will move the project forward in the next year.
“The trail concept we have proposed would be totally unique and attract visitors from around the west,” McNamee says. “The idea is similar to trail systems seen in Europe that connect vineyards and wineries.”
Trails might someday connect area parks to a “winery/vineyard trail system” according to this vision. “We could imagine,” McNamee says, “tourists coming to Salem and using the trail system to plan single day or multi-day hiking and biking adventures. A similar system in East Burke, Vermont, (the Kingdom Trail,) attracts over 40,000 visitors from around the world!”