Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employee Todd Murdock took a break while riding the new Athena Trail near the town of Green River. [Courtesy photo]

The long abandoned Green River Test Site – where long-range intercontinental missiles used to be launched – is being revived as a mountain biking destination, with the help of the Green River Trails Committee.

The Athena Trail, the first of a series of planned trails, has been completed and a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on Saturday, March 17, at 10 a.m. The public is invited. The trail is located adjacent to the former missile base, just off the Interstate 70 exit. Locals know the area as “tent city” for the concrete pads where dozens of military tents were set up as housing for the workers.

The 5.5-mile loop trail is named for the Athena missile, which was regularly launched from the test site during the 1960s. After the U.S. military closed the site in the 1970s, the buildings and infrastructure were largely abandoned.

The City of Green River and the Epicenter, a nonprofit community design center in Green River, hired Moab resident and Grand County Trail Mix trails coordinator Scott Escott to design and build the trail.

“It’s a great piece of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land overlooking the Green River,” Escott said. “It’s a unique landscape; it’s like riding on the moon.”

Escott consulted with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Moab Recreation Planner Katie Stevens in choosing the site for the new trail. Its proximity to town and Interstate 70 were factors in settling on the site, Escott said. A naturally occurring geyser, known as “Crystal Geyser,” is located 300 feet below part of the trail.

“You can see the Green River from portions of the trail, and there are stunning views of the San Rafael Swell and the Book Cliffs Mountains,” Escott said.

“Four years ago, the city contracted with the National Park Service to develop a plan for trails,” Green River City Recorder Conae Black said.

A grant from Utah Outdoor Recreation paid for 50 percent of the $31,650 trail project – which included design, construction, kiosks and trail markings, Black said. The other half was covered by a National Parks Economic Development grant secured by the city, Escott added.

The trail is deemed suitable for intermediate to advanced mountain bikers, and climbs in elevation before reaching the river overlook.

Escott said he’ll begin phase two – another 5- or 6-mile loop trail this spring – in the same general area.

Another new trail is planned for near the John Wesley Powell River History Museum, 1765 Main St. The proposed riverfront pathway project would also include an outdoor amphitheater on museum property where small concerts and talks could be presented, Museum Executive Director Tim Glenn said.

“Green River is trying to develop a little more infrastructure for outdoor recreation in the community,” said Glenn, who is also a member of the Green River Trails Committee, which was formed in 2014. The committee is currently raising funds for the next stage of trail development.

This first trail “is a big deal,” Escott said. “Cycling is a wonderful thing to add to your economic portfolio.”

Green River builds new mountain bike trail at former missile launch site

“(It) is a big deal … Cycling is a wonderful thing to add to your economic portfolio.”

When: Saturday, March 17, at 10 a.m.

Where: Athena Trailhead, off Interstate 70 Exit 164

Cost: Free

Information: 435-564-3427

For more information, call 435-564-3427