Newport High School junior Sam Hurst interned with the News-Times over the summer.

With its grand views and rugged topography, the central Oregon coast makes for a great destination for mountain biking. There are dozens of local mountain bikers, and an influx of out-of-town bikers also adds to Lincoln County’s already booming tourist economy.

An organization was formed to build new trails and maintain the quality of those already existing. Newport Trail Stewards, or NEWTS, is committed to furthering the systems of mountain bike trails already in existence throughout the county.

Currently, NEWTS is working on building a new set of trails above Big Creek Reservoir, which will be open to the public in November. It will include two downhill flow trails and one climbing trail, ranging from easy to intermediate.

To build the trails, a small crew of volunteers has been taking hoes, shovels and pickaxes out into the forest and carving away at the land to make it rideable. NEWTS partnered with Ptarmigan Ptrails, based in Port Orford, to design and build two new trails this past summer, so the local group was able to use their excavators to build much more quickly in bigger sections. It was difficult to build in the summer because the land is much easier to mold and carve when the ground is wet, but now that the rains have begun again, a group of community members is out there every weekend to work on trail building.

According to NEWTS president Wil Black, it took the group two years to get the necessary permits to build by Big Creek Reservoir, where the land is owned by the city. This preliminary work included a meeting with the city council to prove that NEWTS was capable of building a sustainable trail system, and a public hearing with nearby neighbors to answer questions and concerns.

NEWTS also built and maintains a trail system at Wilder, near Oregon Coast Community College in South Beach. Some of that land is also owned by the city, and some is owned by private landowners, with whom NEWTS has agreements to continue to maintain the trails. These trails are open to the public with a free permit.

It takes quite a bit of practice and expertise to build usable trails, and scouting out the routes for new trails is no easy task.

NEWTS member Thomas Follet said, “The major thing, for coastal trails, where we have a lot of rainfall, is not exceeding a certain percent of slope so the water isn’t going to follow the trail down and erode it, so always trying to maintain the proper slope across the hillside is important.”

Another aspect of mapping out a new trail is finding certain scenic spots you want the trail to pass through. For example, Follet said, “If I found a really beautiful giant spruce, I would definitely want the trail to go by that. So I have some destinations in mind, and I try to connect those together in a really interesting way, and hopefully a nice, long way.”

This makes the trails long and winding, but also not too steep, with slopes at a 5 to 7 percent grade.

NEWTS will host a members-only reveal party and fundraiser at 1 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 16, at Big Creek Park for a chance to ride the new set of multi-purpose trails. People can buy a NEWTS membership in person at the event, or online at newportnewts.org.

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