For now, the grand opening for the Madras East Hills Trail System is scheduled for 11 a.m. April 11 at the trailhead. A ribbon-cutting ceremony, food carts, bike demos and other events will be included. The grand opening is still on as planned, but is susceptible to change due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
"We will be able to show off our new trail system lines, from expert lines to beginners lines throughout the trail system for mountain biking and for horses," said Brennen Morrow, Central Oregon Trail Alliance Madras chapter lead.
"Here in Madras, we have true champions that have come out of the woodwork to build this amazing trail system," Morrow said. "We have a unique horse trail obstacle course, which, as far as I know, there is none in Oregon. We have miles of mountain bike trails that are ever improving, with burns, rock armoring, jumps, bridges. All kinds of cool features that you don't get to see in very many places in Central Oregon."
The trails will run around 12 miles long total, with rolling hills, cross country style mountain bike trails, and because it sits 2,250 feet above sea level, it will make for winter and summer use.
The soil being used is slightly clay-based, making for solid trails year round, and the clay makes less dust than other soils.
"Our overall trail system has about 12 miles of trail so far," Morrow said. "We built those 12 miles of trails in less than a year -- a year and a half, if you count the concepts. A year and half from the books to inception to completion. That timeline is well beyond normal speed for building a trail system. It really goes to the fact that in Madras, we look at the world a little different. Instead of saying, 'No, we can't do that, but if we got X, Y, and Z we could,' our community says, 'Yes we can do that, but we are going to need to get X, Y, and Z done.' And that small difference is the difference between can do and cannot do."
The clay also allows riders to go faster than they would without a clay based trail.
Trails are through sagebrush with great views all around. The theme for the Madras East Hills Trails Project is filled with bones and skulls.
"We definitely have a bone theme going," Morrow said. "When we first started working on the trails, one of the valleys had a large number of cow bones, deer bones and other bones that were piled out there. We first made an area called the Valley of Bones, and then we started bringing out the Valley of Bones being a trail that went through the bone area. We started playing with the bones and putting out skulls, which went with the theme of horses and mountain bikes, and it really went with the theme here in Madras."
The bike and horse trails are separated for both the protection of the trails and the horses and riders themselves.
"We have two separate trail systems, one for horses and one for bikes," said Morrow. "Horses and bikes don't go together well. Horses turn the soil on a bike trail, making it less than optimal for bikes and, in turn, bikes when approaching horses can spook those horses because bikes move faster. So to avoid user conflict, we have the two different trail systems. Runners can use all the trail systems, which means they have a multitude of ways they can run that trail."
The East Hills is owned by a few primary players, including Morrow properties, Bean Foundation, the city of Madras and U.S. Forest Service Crooked River National Grassland.
"The trail system is a product of love from the whole community," said Morrow. "We received grants from the Rotary of Madras. We have been sponsored by the Central Oregon Trail Alliance. Their continued sponsorship built these trails. We have seen great volunteer support as well as individual support. CORA, the Central Oregon Realtors Association, both came out and volunteered and gave a nice chunk of money."
"Our super champions are Ron and Fanny Hollingshead," he said. "Ron has volunteered countless hours and built huge portions of the trail system. It would not even be close to being done without his drive, effort, creativity and expertise, with the ability to learn something and give it to the community."
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