This has been another great year for our community effort to create and maintain local trails for hiking, running, watching birds and enjoying the wildflowers, and horseback and bicycle riding.  Some of the highlights of this year include:

Trail Use Explodes!

It’s very exciting and rewarding to go out on the trail and see so many people enjoying this wonderful community resource on foot, horse or bicycle.  We are thrilled to see so many taking advantage of the great opportunities this non-motorized trail system provides.

History Night:  We had an overflow crowd at our  Sterling Mine Ditch history night, held at the Jacksonville Library.  For those of you who missed this fascinating night of local history and stories, we will be offering an expanded version in early February 2013 at a larger venue – the Jacksonville Presbyterian Church.  Stay tuned for details on date and time.

Volunteer Trail Work Parties:  Five great trail work parties accomplished huge amounts of work to clear the trail of brush and do some needed some tread repair. Of course,  lots of fun was had by all while we made the SMDT more user friendly and safer.

Re-opening of the Wolf Gap Access Trail: In January, work started on re-opening this fabulous trail with Black Oak Forest Restoration doing battle with buck brush, manzanita and poison oak, as well as starting the key tread work needed to re-open the trail.  SUTA volunteers picked up from where they left off and put in hours rehabilitating other portions of the trail. The BLM offered help during the summer by funding a crew of youths from the Job Council (see pictures on this website), who completed the remaining tread work.  The end result is a total facelift for the Wolf Gap access trail.  If you have not been on this spectacular trail, be sure to go out and hike it – it’s amazing and offers great views, huge trees, and lovely meadows.  You can do an out and back (it’s 1 ½ miles long) or continue on out the Sterling Mine Ditch in either direction.  Note:  This access trail is for hikers and horses only; it is closed to all bicycles due to the terrain.  Horseback riders – as with the rest of the SMDT, but particularly critical due to the terrain on this access trail, please do not use when trail conditions are wet.

Environmental Assessment of Two New Trail Segments Underway:  We have worked with BLM to produce an environmental assessment (EA) for two new trail segments.  One will connect the north end of the Sterling Mine Ditch trail to the future Jack-Ash trail and the other will provide a by-pass around private land at the Armstrong Gulch area.  The EA is currently being reviewed and will go out for public comment (we’d love your supporting comments!) with the hopes we can begin construction early next year.

Third Successful Title II Grant Application:  SUTA applied for Title II funding for a third time and was successful in obtaining funding for a variety of projects on the Sterling Mine Ditch trail starting next year – including new directional signs and other improvements

Eagle Scout Projects:  Two more Eagle Scouts projects now adorn the SMDT – a bridge over a seasonal creek between Little Applegate and Tunnel Ridge trailheads and four new benches for you to sit and enjoy the scenery.Eagle Scouts sitting on a trail bench they made.

Scenic Trail Designation:  We have just submitted an application to have the Sterling Mine Ditch trail designated as an Oregon Scenic Trail.  If selected, it will promote the use of the SMDT and help us obtain funding for maintenance and other projects for the SMDT.  Keep your fingers crossed.

SMDT Brochure:  Using our Title II funds, BLM and SUTA are in the final stages of developing a totally awesome brochure; it measures 16”x17” with a huge map on one side and lots of pictures and information about the ditch on the other.  We hope to have it printed early next year.  A great resource for publicizing this trail!

Run-the-Ditch 5 Miler:  The Southern Oregon Runners with help from BLM and SUTA hosted a 5-mile race and hike from Bear Gulch to Tunnel Ridge in May.  Almost 100 runners participated.  In addition, BLM hosted a wildflower hike for a crowd of hikers the same day.  It was a major success and may be repeated annually – get your running shoes on.

Jack-Ash Trail Will Move Forward:  In the interest of pushing the Jack-Ash trail closer to reality, we have decided to tackle this 35-mile long trail in phases.  Phase 1 will build on our work on the Sterling Mine Ditch, connecting both ends of the SMDT to the Jack-Ash and then bringing the trail north as far as Griffin Lane.  This will create multiple loops for users and make it easier to get people up to enjoy the incredible views and environment of the Anderson Butte Complex to the Point and Bald Mountain section of the ridgeline.  The first step is funding an EA, which is how you can help the most.  A tax-deductible donation to help us pay to research and write the EA will be key to moving the process along!  Thank you for any help you might provide.

Upcoming Events for 2013:

 Trail Work Parties: These will be held the 3rd Saturday of every month from January through April 2013.  These volunteer-driven events are critical to our ability to keep the trail in great shape for your enjoyment.  Please join us, hike on new parts of the trail you may not have seen, and get some great exercise while helping maintain your trail and meet up with new and old friends.  We are planning some fun surprises for this year’s work parties – don’t miss out.

SMDT History Night 2013:  Back by popular demand, SUTA is hosting a second evening for the community to learn about the fascinating history of the Sterling Mine Ditch with speakers, a panel of local residents with family memories about the ditch and growing up in the Applegate Valley, a short movie on the mining at the Sterling Mine Ditch, displays of photos and artifacts from the gold mining in the area, and more.  We are shooting for early February – as soon as the date is confirmed we will post it on our website and publish notices about it in the local media.


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