Off-road driving trip damages hiking trail

KENNEWICK — A Kennewick man severely damaged a natural habitat and popular hiking trail in Eastern Washington after going off-roading in his 1985 Chevy truck at a county park.

The Tri-City Herald reported Wednesday that James Dunlap, 30, said he didn’t set out to damage the natural habitat on Badger Mountain, just outside Kennewick, when he and his brother drove his truck to the area around 2 a.m. Saturday. He added that he didn’t even know he was at a park. His truck was stuck Wednesday in a park ravine.

Dunlap told the newspaper he was just “doing some hill climbing.”

“I was unaware that it was illegal to go up there or anything like that,” Dunlap said. “I was unaware there were trails on the hill. Why would anybody walk up a hill?”

Benton County officials and local conservationists were in disbelief.

“There’s quite a lot of disappointment that people were actually so stupid to think they could tear up a place like that,” said Jim Langdon, trailmaster for the Friends of Badger Mountain. “Why these guys felt they needed to be up there and four-wheel, I don’t know.”

The organization was formed to preserve open space in the hills around the Tri-­Cities. Volunteers with the group helped build and maintain two trails on Badger Mountain, one for hikers only and another for hikers, mountain bikes and horses.

Damage includes displacement of heavy rocks that line the trail, and wide gouges and holes to the soft soil, Langdon said, adding that the vehicle crossed the hiking trail at least three times.

But the biggest immediate challenge was figuring out a way to extract the truck from a hillside ravine without causing any more damage. Officials were also afraid the truck may pose an environmental hazard.

Dunlap has proposed driving a bulldozer up the hill to remove his truck.

Fyall said there’s no way the county would allow that.

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