Local chapter receives grant to ensure safety, accessibility of Pine Valley trails

The Santa Clara River as seen from the river walkway in the Pine Valley Recreation Area, June 27, 2018 | File photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Back Country Horsemen of Utah received funding from the Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant to build two bridges in Pine Valley.

Paul Sloane, who is president of the Southwest BCHU, attended a workshop 15 months ago where he wrote a grant application that was later approved for $20,987. The Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant reported in 2019 the grants awarded ranged from $5,000-$150,000.

“That workshop was well worth the price of admission,” he said.

The money was used to build two bridges for two trails in Pine Valley. The chapter will install the bridges on June 6.

Sloane said the bridges are necessary to ensure the continued safety of horses and hikers in the area. 

There is a two-mile trail that runs between the equestrian campground and the Whipple Trailhead, which runs east to west, he said. The trail includes two water crossings that flow toward the lake, and there is no way to get to the other side of the trail without going through the water.

The first water crossing heading east from the equestrian campgrounds in Pine Valley, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Back Country Horsemen of America Utah Chapter, St. George News

In the past, hikers have made makeshift bridges that dam the streams and cause flooding and erosion, he said. Over time erosion has also made the walls near the trail steeper and more difficult to get across.

The bridge will benefit families with children or individuals with limited abilities by making the trail safer and more accessible, he said.

Although the trail isn’t wheelchair accessible, Sloane said the trail is mostly level, which makes it an easier hike for those with disabilities. The only obstacle was the water crossing, which had become rockier and more dangerous as more and more people attempted to create dams and bridges of their own.

“It’s been in the back of my mind for numerous years that we really need a bridge to get over that,” he said. “But at the time, there wasn’t a logical way that we could pull it off.”

The Back Country Horsemen partnered with the U.S. Forest Service and the American Conservation Experience to qualify and meet the requirements of the grant. Sloane said the club had to pay for the bridges before it could be reimbursed.

The money was awarded in the form of a match grant, of which the club was required to pay half through its own funds or in-kind labor. In-kind labor is determined by the government, which places a value on community labor to dictate an equal trade of goods and services.

The walls leading up to the second water crossing near the equestrian campgrounds that have been difficult for hikers and horses to navigate in Pine Valley, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Back Country Horsemen of America Utah Chapter, St. George News

In this case, the club and the American Conservation Experience worked to clear the area, which the government estimated was a little over $27 per hour, as a part of the trade.

Sloane said the bridges were built by a company in Oregon that makes all of the bridges for the Forest Service nationwide. Both bridges were transported to a service facility in Cedar City earlier this month, Sloane said.

The bridges were specially constructed to meet federal requirements and include preserved wood that is expected to last for 30 years. Each bridge cost $17,630 to make.

The Back Country Horsemen of America is a national organization centered on trail maintenance and park conservation. The club has over 14,000 members across 31 states.

Utah has 12 chapters, and the Southwest BCHU chapter has existed for almost 20 years. The 70 St. George members complete projects for the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve at locations like Snow Canyon State Park and Zion National Park.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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