The new exercise course along the lower stretch of Clear Creek must be the most incongruous trail project in Shasta County. But building a par course in the semi-wilderness must not be too bad an idea, because I keep going over there to use it.
The Western Shasta County Resources Conservation District (RCD), which has overseen the delightful Clear Creek Greenway project, completed building the exercise course a few weeks ago. Although the formal grand opening is a few weeks off, the equipment is ready to use right now.
And there’s big trail doings elsewhere: The Bureau of Land Management expects to complete a new 10-mile trail from the ribbon bridge (on the Sacramento River bike path) to the Hornbeck Trail by mid-June. The new trail will permit ambitious mountain bikers, equestrians, hikers and runners to circle all the way around Keswick Reservoir almost entirely on trails.
One other big piece of trail news: The BLM plans to start paving the rail trail on the west side of Keswick Reservoir on June 1. Portions of the rail trail will be closed during construction.
Dang, does any other place in the country have the wealth of recreation trails that western Shasta County has?
But back to Clear Creek. The greenway project is an approximately $1.5 million undertaking, with about $1.1 million coming from a state parks and recreation grant. The Bureau of Land Management, Shasta County, the McConnell Foundation and the Redding Rancheria are among the entities that joined with the RCD to make the project happen. There are many components, including the Clear Creek Gorge picnic area and overlook, about 12 miles of trails, improved parking and new pit toilets in several locations, habitat restoration, invasive plant removal and an exercise course.
The exercise course runs along the Clear Creek Trail, beginning about 200 yards east of the Clear Creek Gorge trailhead. The well-marked trailhead is located on Clear Creek Road, about five miles west of Highway 273. Fourteen stations are spread over roughly a mile-and-a-half. Each station offers three different activities – the usual push ups, sit ups and pull ups, plus a plethora of jumping, balancing and stretching movements. The stations are not numbered, and you may jump in at any point. The final stop heading east is the body curl station.
The course was grant-driven. The state awarded extra points to projects that included a diabetes feature. One way to control diabetes is through regular exercise, so RCD Director Mary Mitchell figured she would add a par course to the greenway proposal. The grant committee loved the idea, she said. “It’s one of the things that really caught their eye,” she recalled.
Bill Kuntz, supervising outdoor recreation planner for the Redding BLM office, expressed a bit of skepticism to me about the exercise course, but he understands why the RCD pursued it.
“It may seem a little bit out of place, and a little weird, but it helped get them the funding in the bigger picture,” Kuntz said.
As a longtime student of parks, I’ve encountered more than my share of dilapidated, unused par course equipment. I’m hoping that will not be the fate of the Clear Creek course. Actually, I think the setting is just odd enough – and pleasant enough, really – that the course could prove popular. Cross-training and circuit training are common techniques for everyone from professional athletes to couch potatoes hoping to lose a few pounds. Wouldn’t you rather complete a circuit in a gorgeous outdoor setting than in a stuffy gym?
As I said earlier, a formal grand opening for the course is scheduled later this month. I’ll let you know the details when the time grows near.
Even if you have no interest in the exercise course, now is a great time to check out the greenway, because the wildflowers are great. Two warnings: The poison oak is in its glory right now, and, if you’re going to ride your bicycle, squirt a latex sealant like Slime into your tubes, because the puncturevine is thick in some places.
While much of the greenway project is complete, some aspects are ongoing. The biggest unfinished project is construction of a pedestrian walkway over Clear Creek at Horsetown. The walkway will attach to the Clear Creek Road bridge, which has little room for hikers and cyclists. Although the RCD is $30,000 short of the $450,000 needed to build the walkway, Mitchell said the district is going forward with engineering in hopes the final few dollars will trickle in.
Back up at Keswick, I’m absolutely thrilled with the new trail because it will provide a critical connection between the heavily used Sacramento River bike path and the increasingly popular Hornbeck and Water Ditch trails east of Keswick Reservoir. Currently, you have to use roads or power line right-of-way to make the connection.
“It completes the big picture we’ve had of a loop around Keswick Reservoir,” the BLM’s Kuntz said.
The new trail will be much like the Hornbeck Trail, which runs four miles from Quartz Hill Road to the end of Walker Mine Road, in that the new trail will follow the hillside’s natural contours. No section will have a grade steeper than 6 or 7 percent, so the trail will be accessible to even beginning mountain bikers, Kuntz said. The tame slopes also make maintenance easy because there is little erosion.
The pathway will offer great views of the reservoir and river, and will provide a couple water access points. The BLM intends to install interpretive signs at a few historic mining locations.
Again, the new trail is not finished, so the BLM is asking people to just hold their horses (or their Cannondales) for a few more weeks.
As for the paving project on the other side of the reservoir, I have to admit I’m of two minds. I hate to see asphalt extend into the countryside when a perfectly adequate gravel road already exists. That said, I also think the pavement extension will greatly increase use of both the lower and upper rail trails. Heck, I’m already looking forward to riding my road bicycle from the Sundial Bridge to Shasta Dam and back.
Kuntz is quick to note that only an eight-foot-wide path will be paved. For nearly the entire length of trail, there will be a gravel shoulder at least four feet wide. Users will have their choice of surface.
Trail paving will occur throughout the summer and early fall, with various stretches of trail closed for periods.
Meanwhile, Kuntz continues to talk with the Bureau of Reclamation about allowing recreational use of the service bridge over the Sacramento River, several hundred yards below Shasta Dam. The idea is to permit people to complete the Keswick loop without having to climb all the way up to and across the dam.
Paul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and a trail running fool who lives within striking distance of the Clear Creek Greenway. Paul Shigley may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.