Several years ago the Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC) had an idea: Make north-central Idaho a recreation destination by designating a 240-mile motorized route from Elk City, Idaho, north to Avery, Idaho. The route would not require new construction; rather, it would be comprised of existing road and trail segments linked together, designated and branded as the GEM (Grand Exploration Motorized) Trail.
While providing obvious recreational opportunities, the route would also provide economic opportunities by providing access to and marketing the numerous small communities along the way and where riders could seek amenities and information about additional recreational opportunities in the region.
Making the GEM Trail a Reality
Designating such a route is a complex task. As currently envisioned, the trail would cross multiple ownerships including trail segments managed by the Forest Service, Idaho Department of Lands, Idaho County, and private landowners, necessitating the need to negotiate multiple agreements and possibly easements. Additionally, an overall management entity is needed to provide marketing and management direction and troubleshoot problems. Since these actions require substantial time and funding, the CBC is considering development of a management council to perform this function.
Not having the resources to tackle these issues and designate the entire route in its totality, the CBC has stepped back and decided to take an incremental approach to trail designation. While a 240-mile trail has been mapped using GPS technology, the CBC has decided to take a second look at the route from the community of Kooskia north to Avery to determine if a simpler route can be located, necessitating the need for fewer agreements and eliminating the need for easements.
While a re-evaluation of that trail segment occurs, the CBC is working with the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests to designate and sign the route from Clearwater south to Elk City, which is closely aligned with the historic Elk City Wagon Road. As part of that effort a formal logo has been adopted, and the CBC and Forest Service are working in partnership to develop necessary agreements to incorporate the logo into the existing infrastructure including signs and mile markers. Discussions are being initiated with Idaho County regarding signing on the Clearwater to Kooskia segment.
Additionally, the CBC is working to incorporate the logo and GEM Trail information into a kiosk at the recently-completed trailhead in Elk City. The product of collaboration between Framing Our Community, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, this trailhead will serve as the southernmost trailhead along the GEM route.
Also planned, but not yet scheduled, are meetings in the towns of Kooskia, Clearwater and Elk City to discuss the GEM Trail approach and elicit ideas regarding community involvement.
Celebrating Milestones – The Elk City Trailhead
To publicly celebrate the establishment of the Elk City trailhead and its role as a key component in the southernmost segment of the GEM Trail, a dedication ceremony is being held Saturday, October 1, in Elk City. Festivities will kick off with a trail ride in the morning from 10:00-2:00. A dedication ceremony will commence at the trailhead from 2:00-3:00, with speakers including Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation Director David Langhorst. Music will follow with the band Vintage Youth performing from 3:00-6:00. For more information, contact Joyce Dearstyne, Director, Framing Our Community, (208)842-2939.