“I love the adventure of trails,” says Salem’s Mark Wigg.  “You never know what’s around the bend.”

Wigg is the primary creator and steward of Skyline Trail and Croisen Meadow Loop trails, which run their lengths in the forestland to the north, west and south of Sprague High School in South Salem.  These trails can give hikers or bikers a 2 or 3 mile loop, or, when combined with the Croisen Scenic Trail (Salem Weekly, June 12) offer 5 miles of woodsy exploring.

“This whole trail got put in by volunteers,” Wigg says, gesturing down a long sun dappled path between Oregon white oak and sword ferns.  “Trails are easy to build and easy to maintain; they’re practically free.  And people use them.”

Skyline trail first began several years ago when Wigg, passing on Croisen Creek Road S, glanced east and noticed small, alluring meadows in the woods the other side of Croisen Creek.  He wondered who owned the land, and how he could reach those meadows.

“You can get maps from the County Assessor to learn the topography of an area like this,” Wigg says. “You can learn who owns it, where the tax lots are and that kind of thing.  I found that this was neglected land, parkland.  I thought, ‘let’s do something with this!’ and the City was very accommodating.”

Like others who want to build parks in city limits, Wigg had to find the land was suitable, then tape off a potential trail, then get city Parks personnel to walk his trail idea off.

“They said, ‘fine, it looks good,’” he says.

The next step was to find people to help clear the way.  Crews appeared from the Chemeketians outdoor group and from the Salem Area Trail Alliance (SATA) a group that promotes trails in and around the Salem area.

“One weekend, 20 people built 1,000 feet of trail in two hours,” Wigg says.

The woods and creek look wild and are used by deer, beaver, frogs, trout, squirrels and coyotes, and contain flora the Department of Fish and Wildlife considers key habitat.  Skyline and Croisen Meadow are used by many, including a Biology class at Sprague High and the school’s Cross-Country Track team.  Ordinary people frequent it, out for a stroll.  On the day we visit, a group of young people race their bikes down a run, laughing and photographing each other.

Wigg says the paths aren’t hard to maintain.  “I come through here about once a week with a sandvig,” he says, swiping at foliage.  The cross-country team does some clearing as well.  “And a lot of people who come out here will pick up trash or toss a branch from the trail, so it’s kind of self-maintained.”

Wigg is adamant that cities like Salem don’t need “$300,000 play equipment” to keep the public happy.  They mainly need trails.

“If you look at polls, like the City of Salem’s Park Masterplan,” Wigg says, “you see that what people want most is trails.  62% of people say they use paths and trails, and 59% say more trails are needed.  Well, here in Salem we have 600 acres of undeveloped parkland, just waiting for someone to decide to build a trail on it.  And it’s so rewarding to do.”