Badger Mountain could benefit from new tax proposal

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. - You may be asked to pay higher taxes for Badger Mountain. The recreational hotspot could see more trails and a large preserve with a higher property tax - and the issue may not need your signature to go on the ballot.

Chris Newbill runs Badger Mountain almost every day, sometimes twice a day.

"It doesn't take that much to get your heart rate up, breathing up, so it's an easy workout," said Newbill.

He is just one of nearly 200,000 people who used Badger Mountain this past year, and one reason why the group "Friends of Badger Mountain" are looking to protect it. Sharon Grant founded the group more than a decade ago. She's leading the charge to add a tax of $11 a year on Benton County property owners. Asking for about a $1 a month would generate nearly a million dollars towards the mountain's upkeep.

"If we weren't here working on this, all this would get developed, so what we're doing is setting aside land for all the generations to enjoy," said Grant.

Fitness fanatics like Chris are all for it.

"The hill is used so much by so many people, it's a wonderful facility, so I think it would be worthwhile," said Newbill.

Right now, the group relies on volunteers and Benton County to preserve and acquire neighboring land to prevent more development. The group tells me they have a number of projects planned if the tax proposal passes. One includes a lengthy trail connecting the area near Leslie Road in south Richland all the way to Red Mountain. The money could potentially double the current number of trails and create another 200 acre preserve.

"I think it's going to be a great tourism boom, to see you can hike first, then wine and dine," said Grant.

"Badger gets crowded at times, so it will spread the people out more," said Newbill.

But not all hikers are happy about the tax.

"While I love the mountain, I don't expect everybody in the community to have to pay for my and other people who enjoy this kind of stuff, exercise and entertainment," said hiker Bob Sturgis.

The group's goal would be to prevent congestion and create more mountain attracting with a variety of trails.

"I am willing to shell out $11 per year," said Newbill.

Friends of Badger Mountain say they will present their plan before county commissioners in a few weeks. The commission will either approve or deny the new tax proposal to go directly on the November ballot.