By Susan Hess.
The “Singletrack” Barbeque Bacon Cheeseburger is a half-pound beef patty, topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, barbeque sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion—all somehow contained between a hamburger bun. This mountain-size burger 6th Street Bistro owners Chris and Stacie Creasy named and linked to mountain biking.
For every Singletrack burger sold, the Creasys donate $1 to 44 Trails Association and Hood River Area Trail Stewards (HRATS)—two cycling organizations that build and help maintain trails in the Hood River area. “The way the system works is that we alternate on the months who gets what money,” said Mr. Creasy. “Say if January is one organization, February is the next. They just keep flip-flopping throughout the year.” In 2015 that amounted to almost $3,000.
“How great is it, that you have this local business that has taken this initiative to give back to our trail community, says Heather Pola, Vice President on HRATS Board. The Creasys’ donation “is not earmarked for anything in particular—meaning it could go toward buying loppers, hose, rakes: meaning tools. It could be put toward our insurance. Having that on a regular basis is a great feeling.”
HRATS focuses on the Post Canyon trail system—land owned by Hood River County and managed primarily for timber production. Those trails appeal to the rider who wants action, speed, jumps, and obstacles. 44 Trails takes in the trails off Highway 44 on land primarily in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Those biking 44 Trails want a quiet time in the forest.
Chris and Stacie Creasy and Park Chambers contributions help fill the financial gap. Another business, Hood River Bicycles, also donates to both 44 Trails and HRATS. Owner Park Chambers gives $5 for each bike rental. The person renting a bike tells where they plan to bike and the money goes to the group for that area. That amounted to $6,300 since he started the program in 2014.
The two businesses “understand there is a ton of connectivity between the community and the National Forest,” says Jim Thornton, Recreation Specialist & Operations for the Mt. Hood Ranger District and liaison to 44 Trails. “44 Trails Association provides a link between the community and the forest. Having a relationship between 44 Trails and the businesses and the forest benefits: hikers, bikers, equestrians, hunters, and the forest.”
Trail maintenance funding has taken a heavy hit over the last 20 years. Federal and state money that used to go to maintaining recreation trails has instead gone to fighting forest fires. “In 1995, fire made up 16 percent of the Forest Service’s annual appropriated budget—this year, for the first time, more than 50 percent of the Forest Service’s annual budget will be dedicated to wildfire,” Aug. 2015 U.S. Forest Service report.
“We’re losing more and more trail miles,” Mr. Thornton says, “because of lack of maintenance or deferred maintenance. Then that increases use on a small amount of trails.”
On the trail system off Highway 44, Mr. Thornton uses the funds to buy a compost material to ‘armor’ the trails for the heavy bike and equestrian use those trails get. The material creates a hardened system with a 50 year life. Everything has to be extra strength—including waterbars. “The little hand-put-in waterbars won’t hold up,” Mr. Thornton says.
“Besides the heavy trail maintenance on the trail tread, 44 Trails “logs out” to a full width clearing limit.” That’s about six feet. “The local business monies support these efforts. And is extremely helpful!” Mr. Thornton says. “An ungodly amount of blowdowns gets cut each year. I would estimate 1500 trees are cut per year to open these trails for use.”
Unlike most trails in Post Canyon, the trails in the 44 system are the burger’s namesake: Singletrack. “It’s a ribbon in the natural environment,” Mr. Thornton says. “Thoughtful consideration for the natural world in your trail alignment will produce a single track trail: 12 to 24 inches wide.”
He likes users “to have the feeling of brush hitting your face, hitting your elbows, your knees getting wet. To be touched by the natural world. I do less invasive work to protect the natural environment, to be respectful to the natural world and all the other ecosystems that live outside the trails—through proper alignment and consciousness.”
The Singletrack contribution is “one of those things that I feel really proud to be supporting,” Mr. Creasy said. “I think it’s making a difference for us as a business—because I think a lot of people come to Hood River to ride—and for me, because I really like to ride as well. It works out great. It really does.”
And if the Singletrack burger’s calorie level is just too high, say you’ve only ridden 15 hours, or you follow the vegetarian lifestyle, it also comes: veggie burger and salad.