By Ann McCreary

Groundwork is being laid for expanding mountain biking trails at Sun Mountain and the Loup Loup Ski Bowl.

The Methow Chapter of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance plans to host community meetings in the near future to gather comments from the public about proposed new Sun Mountain bike trails that would add about 15 more miles of singletrack riding.

The Methow Chapter is focusing first on planning and permitting for the Sun Mountain trail system, said Dave Acheson, chapter president.

The group is working in partnership with the Methow Ranger District, which has received a grant of $35,000 from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) to conduct the necessary permitting to expand the Sun Mountain trails.

The new trails would be developed on Forest Service land around Sun Mountain. Permitting for the project is expected to be completed by next spring, and trail construction would begin soon after.

In addition to expanding the amount of singletrack trails, the project would also make improvements to existing trails.

“We’re trying to increase the cohesiveness and quality of what’s up there,” said Acheson.

Mountain bikers at Sun Mountain now have to travel on roads or wide paths that are groomed for ski trails in winter in order to connect to singletrack trails.

“We are trying to be thoughtful about making connections so you can be on a [singletrack] trail the entire time,” Acheson said.

The highlight of the trail expansion will be a new trail along the top of Thompson Ridge and Gobbler’s Knob that will offer expansive views of the Methow Valley and Sawtooth Mountains, Acheson said.

The ridgetop trail will be about 8 or 9 miles long, connecting to the Meadowlark trail and the Criss Cross trail, and should be popular with a variety of trail users, he said.

In addition, plans call for a singletrack trail paralleling Thompson Road, giving bikers an alternative to riding on the road.

Members of the Methow Chapter are mapping proposed routes and gathering input on the plans, and will then “hand it off to the Forest Service, and it will become the proposed action,” Acheson said.

The Methow District will then conduct an environmental evaluation, including flagging the proposed routes and conducting field studies, Acheson said.

About 10 percent of the work involved in planning and permitting is volunteer time by Methow Chapter members, and serves as a match for the RCO grant, Acheson said.

The Methow Chapter and ranger district are also cooperating in developing a non-motorized multi-use trail system on Forest Service land in and adjacent to the Loup Loup Ski Bowl. The RCO provided a grant of about $40,000 for planning and permitting that project, which will get underway next summer.

The summer trail system at the Loup “is not as fully formed a proposal — it’s still in its infancy,” Acheson said.

Soon after the Methow Chapter of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance was formed about four years ago, members began working on a plan for expansion and improvements of the Sun Mountain.

Acheson said the bike group has met with other interested parties, such as Methow Trails, to discuss plans. The chapter plans to begin this fall raising money through grants and donations to fund construction of both the Sun Mountain and Loup Loup trail systems next year.

Acheson said the Methow Chapter has about 70 members, who give hundreds of hours of volunteer labor each year to improve bike trails in and around the Methow Valley.