Hoe Down

Northwest Trail Alliance calls in the heavy artillery

January 14, 2010

Forget shovels and pick axes. If Northwest Trail Alliance (formerly Portland United Mountain Pedalers) members get their wish, the next mile of newly laid singletrack trail that you ride will have been carved out by the ST240.

Yesterday the group announced it had applied for a grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to purchase this one-of-a-kind piece of machinery.

Designed and built by Oregon-based Singletrack Tools, this pint-size, trail-slicing dynamo is custom made to deliver mountain biking and hiking paths at the push of a button—literally. Thanks to computerized hydraulics, the ST240 can be operated by remote control if necessary.

Among the tool’s bevy of cool features are the awesomely named “heavy duty grubbing bucket”, angled blades, and treads that can vary their width from 36” down to a slender 24”. Such specialized capabilities means the ST240 can surgically carve its way through just about any type of terrain thrown its way. Seriously, check out the company’s promotional video. (Warning: cheesy soundtrack included).

While some might view the ST240 as a dirt-munching Sherman tank of sorts, haphazardly crashing through the forest, NTA points out that using such a device would actually decrease potential environmental impacts by lessening the amount of time crews would spend working within a targeted site. The group explains that the machine’s ability to quickly lay singletrack would also free up budgets for maintaining the trails once they are in place.

Speaking of budgets, at $94,000 the ST240 ain’t cheap. However, the Parks’ grant, which will be decided upon in May, would cover around 80 percent of the machine’s cost. NTA is on the lookout for private donations to pick up the tab on the remaining 12 grand.

And if they’re looking to hire drivers for this thing, the line starts right here in the Muddy Boot’s office.

In a related note, this morning I got an update from NTA that the committee formed by the Portland Parks Bureau to examine increased singletrack riding in Forest Park will be meeting this afternoon. For a primer on that sometimes thorny subject, check out Portland Monthly’s July issue, and check back with the Muddy Boot for updates about this ongoing discussion.

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