SOUTH COAST — The Whiskey Run Mountain Biking Trails, the first trails on the Southern Oregon coast that are mountain biking specific, are soon to be finished.
The public is invited to an opening celebration at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18, with free hot-dogs and opportunities to enjoy the trail.
Approximately eight miles of the initial 11-mile trail are complete for public use. The trails are located west of U.S. Highway 101 between Coos Bay and Bandon.
To get there, take West Beaver Hill Road off of Highway 101 and follow it to Whiskey Run Road. They’re about 10 miles from the Winchester multi-use trails, but it’s important to note that the two do not connect. The Whiskey Run trails are open to non-motorized use only.
Although many of the trails are complete, there are still some work crews digging out parts of trails and building bridges in some areas.
The biking trails are the effort of Coos County, the biking club Wild Rivers Coast Mountain Biking Association and other community members to promote tourism in the area.
The trails are on Coos County forest land, in a logging area, so in 20 years when the area is harvested by loggers the routes of the trails are likely to change.
“Coos County Forest has been really supportive, and have seen the benefit of the trails,” WRCMBA board member Erin Kessler said.
Coos County is one of Oregon's hardest hit counties economically and has suffered greatly from reduced timber harvests, according to the Coos County Board of Commissioners. Consequently, the county does not have extra money to build recreational trails.
The trails were made possible through grants awarded from the Oregon State Parks Recreational Trails Program, Business Oregon and the Southern Oregon Workforce Investment Board. It provides an opportunity for tourists and locals alike to visit a well-managed forest while also enjoying recreational opportunities on the Oregon Coast.
"This project just proves how much we can do when we work together," said Board of Commissioners Chairman Melissa Cribbins. "This partnership combined the efforts of Coos County, Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, Jon-Paul Bowles, Chris Barnhart of Sentieros Consulting, Eddie Kessler of Ptarmigan Trails, Travel Oregon and its regional steering committees, and the efforts of the Wild River Coast Mountain Biking Club."
Mountain biking trails are internationally categorized by difficulty using the colors green blue and black. Green trails are beginner trails, blue trails are intermediate trails, and black trails are for advanced riders. Most of the trails will be green beginner trails. However, there will be a few intermediate areas on trails for more advanced riders.
“They’re easy enough that my 4-year-old on her bike can ride, as well as folks that are new to mountain biking … Most of these are green, but there are a few that we’d consider blue maybe. But they are not mandatory, you can just take another trail," Kessler said
The trails are on what’s known as a stacked loop, which means trails loop back around to each other, allowing trails to branch off and loop around for varied difficulty.
Many different groups and individuals have donated their time to building the trails. One of the work crews out in last week’s rain was a group of young adults working with the South Coast Business Employment Corporation to gain work experience.
The grand opening for the Whiskey Run Mountain Biking Trails, when they’re 100 percent completed and marked with signs, won’t be until early next summer.
"We're really fortunate to have these kind of world class trails," said Karl Maxon, owner of South Coast Bicycles in Bandon. "Many people come to our area looking for recreation and there's so much going on here. These trails are for all ages and abilities with a variety of terrains and you can make them more or less challenging, depending on what you want. They are wide and groomed."
Maxon said it's exciting to see local government and statewide tourism groups put a focus on trail systems to boost economic activity. There have been improvements locally to encourage cycling, such as lights on Bullards Bridge to allow cyclists to cross more safely, and a hiker-biker campground developed at Bullards Beach State Park.
A new fat tire biking trail map has been printed by Travel Oregon that highlights the self-guided fat bike tours on local beaches. There are four trails of varying difficulty on the beach between Reedsport and Brookings. Fat tire bikes can be rented at South Coast Bicycles. To learn more about each ride, visit traveloregon.com.
"Fat tire biking is a movement and it's taking off all over the coast," Bandon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Miller said
"A lot of people ride," Maxon said. "The weather didn't help this year, it's been challenging and people have cabin fever. It's pretty remote, but once you get here, you discover how beautiful it is and all the things to do outdoors year-round, including biking, kayaking, hiking, surfing, birding and more. People come from all over the world."
Miller is also excited about the many outdoor recreation opportunities being developed along the South Coast. As vice president of the Coos County Tourism Group, Miller, along with Coos County Tourism Group president Jennifer Groth, hopes to continue that development.
The Coos County Tourism Group is funded by a percentage of a self-imposed tax from Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, and will focus on project development to promote tourism, Miller said. The Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bike Trail, the Fat Tire Biking Trails and the new Whiskey Run Mountain Biking Trails will all help make the South Coast a destination for visitors who love to ride.
"Something tourism related of this scale hasn't been done for a long time in this area," Miller said.