Our Voice: Networks of trails bind community together

What sounded like it might be a good idea a decade ago has turned into a great community attraction.

In 2005, most people around here had not been to the top of Badger Mountain. Last year, 200,000 hikers made the climb -- and there are now three trails to get there.

Imagine a similar preserve on Candy Mountain.

And -- eventually -- a 20-mile trail system that connects those two preserves and beyond.

The Friends of Badger Mountain and the Benton County Commissioners are working on the Candy Mountain development.

The hope is to get a big chunk of money from a state grant and matching funds from the community.

The money invested in Badger Mountain has been largely supplemented with volunteer hours to build and maintain the trails. This partnership is working for all of us.

It's a great idea.

Hold that thought for a minute and jump a few steps over to Red Mountain, one of the burgeoning viticulture areas in our state.

There are plans to create a walk-and-wine attraction on Red Mountain that would put people "in touch with the dirt" that the grapes grow in, said Heather Unwin, executive director of the Red Mountain American Viticulture Area Alliance.

The plan she described will have vineyards linked with wineries and visitor facilities through a network of trails.

People could hike to, or around the wineries and finish in one of the area's tasting rooms or restaurants.

It has been said that "appetite is the best seasoning." A hike through the vineyards to a nice glass of wine and dinner could only enhance that appetite. It would be a lovely way to spend an afternoon or summer evening.

This plan is not directly tied to the Candy Mountain preserve proposal, but the common ground is Red Mountain.

The wineries are already in play at Red Mountain. The long-range hope is for a trail system that connects Red Mountain to Amon Basin.

These complementary plans for enhanced trails would be great for Mid-Columbians and a reason for tourists to bring their dollars to visit us.

Agriculture has played a big role in the Mid-Columbia, and this specialized area of agriculture, wine and grapes is becoming a bigger player.

Tourism and outdoor recreation also have boasting rights.

The possibilities are growing and maturing, and it's all about networks.

Whether it's the network of trails or the networking between organizations and agencies or the networking of ideas, the combined effort is beneficial for all.