The popular Manastash Ridge trail system near Ellensburg is due for improvement, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) continue to seek public involvement in planning upgrades.
Representatives from the two agencies and a 15-member stakeholder committee made up of people with interests such as hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing, began meeting last December to develop a plan for the Manastash Ridge trails.
The plan, which will provide guidance for long-term maintenance, design improvements, signs and volunteer projects, is scheduled to be completed by June 2018.
"Our most important goals are to improve the recreational experience throughout the Manastash Ridge trail system and to advance habitat conservation efforts," said Cindi Confer Morris, WDFW's Wenas Wildlife Area manager.
"Creating a common vision for this well-loved community asset is going to help us attract more volunteers and obtain competitive grant funds," said Stephanie Margheim, DNR volunteer specialist. "The community's participation improves our ability to be better stewards of the state's natural resources, and to protect public access."
The Manastash Ridge stakeholder committee meets from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at DNR's Southeast Regional office, 713 Bowers Road, Ellensburg. Each meeting includes a brief opportunity for public comment. The next meeting will take place March 28.
Confer Morris said the ridge is becoming more popular, which has increased the need to ensure that the use of new and existing trails protects natural resources and local habitats.
"I am grateful for the support and dedication of our stakeholder committee," said Confer Morris. "We have a productive group interested in coming to solutions that will benefit people for generations to come."
"In addition to the hikers and mountain bikers, we've been reaching out to hunters, horseback riders and conservation organizations to see if there are other groups using the area that would be interested in serving on the committee," said Confer Morris.
The committee discusses challenges at the wildlife area such as unauthorized trail expansion, erosion, safety and other issues that come along with increasing public use of the trails.
The work is funded by a $60,000 Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) grant to WDFW. The grant funds planning to improve, relocate or abandon unauthorized trails in accordance with habitat and wildlife needs.
Additionally, WDFW, DNR and local volunteers are providing $15,500 in match funding to support the work.
For more information on meetings, work to date, and planning documents visit the project web page at http://wdfw.wa.gov/manastash-ridge-trails/. For additional information on the project and committee, email Manastashtrails@dfw.wa.gov.