ITD ramps up safety along Gem Trail in north-central Idaho

Continued development of an ATV trail from Elk City to Avery led to recent collaboration between multiple partners in north-central Idaho. Called the Gem Trail, this path for off-highway vehicles will stretch about 240 miles by next summer, connecting rural towns to economic development by improving available recreational opportunities.

The Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC) first proposed the trail to take advantage of the existing network of roads and paths in the area to revitalize rural towns. Randy Doman, a co-chair for the recreation subcommittee, said the trail has been years in the making, with progress dependent on partnerships.

“This trail is about working with locals and working across boundaries,” Doman said. “We’re setting up the backbone for future trails in the region.”

Last year, Doman approached ITD’s Craigmont maintenance foreman Lee Linabary about working with a local property owner along US-12 just east of Kooskia to build a ramp within the department’s right of way to help riders safely access two separate legs of the trail.

Before various partners came together, the two sections were divided by the highway, which ATVs are not legally allowed to ride on, at the East Kooskia Bridge.

Property owner Jim Pankey agreed to give Idaho County 50 inches of his right of way near the highway, allowing riders to cross the river and travel in a roadside ditch before using a new ramp to cross the highway and continue on the trail.

“I was happy to work together to not only bring recreational and economic opportunities to our area but to also promote safety,” Linabary said.

Linabary reused material from nearby ditching activities to build the 60-foot ramp to connect the highway to the ditch 17 feet below.

Construction took half a day but will enable future riders to avoid driving on the road, which has a speed limit of 55 mph, to continue on the trail.

Other entities, such as the Kidder-Harris Highway District, also contributed to this segment of the route by moving material.

Doman said the CBC aims to have the trail signed in accordance with U.S. Forest Service regulations so that approximately 120 miles of the trail will be open between Elk City and Pierce in the fall.

Read more about the trail here.