Last year saw an expansion of user paths across Flathead Valley, from the opening of the Parkline Trail through downtown Kalispell to the addition of new singletrack in the surrounding hills. 2023 looks set to be an even bigger year for trail expansion as groups around the valley plan to break ground once the snow melts.
In Bigfork, the Flathead Land Trust (FLT) recently took ownership of 236 acres of land from the Public Lands Trust just north of the Swan River. The two groups, along with Montana Land Reliance, coordinated to purchase the property when it was first slated for residential development several years ago, with the goal of preserving it permanently and opening it up for recreation. did.
According to FLT President Paul Travis, construction on the Bigfork Harrell Trail project is expected to begin this spring.
“Our goal is to provide different types of experiences for different users,” says Travis. “The property has fairly mellow, gentle slopes, making it ideal for recreational trails.”
In the spring, Montana Made Trails will begin construction on 4.5 miles of new singletrack designed as a series of stacked loops. Two existing dirt roads through the property have been incorporated into the trail system, and Travis estimates that users will have access to just over six miles of dirt.
“There is no doubt that the community needs a project like this that can expand access to front country spaces closer to town,” he said. “These trails have been made possible through a combination of good luck and a great project proposal that appeals to the community. The support we have gotten shows how important this is to our residents.”
At Columbia Falls, the Gateway to Glacier Trail project continued work on the Cedar Flat Trail project, which broke ground last fall. Phase one includes about four miles of construction, and Glacier to Gateway President Jeremiah Martin is excited to see the momentum continue.
“This year we want to complete more new trails than we have in the last three years,” says Martin. “We have momentum so we can really continue to make progress in this area.”
Plans are being made to improve the parking lot on the south side of the Cedar Flats trailhead. This parking lot includes vault toilets. Also includes his second parking lot north of Forest Service Road 1690. The total planned trail network exceeds 25 miles.
The organization, which also manages the Gateway to Glacier multi-use path, also plans to continue the Columbia Falls River Trail at the Bad Rock Canyon Wildlife Management Area along the Flathead River.
Martin said increasing community engagement with trail advocacy groups is also a priority in 2023. Dozens of cyclists, runners and hikers turned up for the impromptu gathering for the opening of the Cedar Flats Trail. Martin hopes to host an additional Community His Gathering next year to lay the groundwork for hosting events on the trail. The system leading to the city of Columbia Falls.
One of the valley’s most extensive trail networks begins at Heron Park west of Kalispell and stretches south to Blacktail Mountain Ski Area. The Foys to Blacktail (FTB) organization says he hosts two trail races a year to raise money for new construction and general trail maintenance, which costs a lot of money.
Gabe Dillon, program coordinator for FTB, said: “Certainly, you can leave the trail alone for a long time, but fixing it will be in rough shape, almost rebuilding. I am accustomed to having
Trail maintenance can cost anywhere from $550 per mile per year to thousands of dollars if sections need to be redesigned and rebuilt. The Foys to Blacktail crew has been doing drainage carvings on the lower trails near Herron Park for the last two years and has identified Boundary Trail and Chase Overlook as priorities for drainage improvements this year.
Additionally, the FTB hopes to complete construction of a series of new loop trails from Emmons Saddle, a project that began construction in 2022.
Linking these groups is the Flathead Trails Association (FTA). The Flathead Trails Association (FTA) is a consortium of recreational and conservation-focused nonprofits, government agencies, and user groups that came together last year to create a centralized hub for trail advocacy.
Allie Maloney, trail coordinator for the FTA, said the group had a series of successful scoping meetings last year, including big picture planning, and achieved all major goals, including creating a central website and hiring her for the position. said he did.
“When we first met many years ago, people dreamed of what Flatheads could do. We achieved all these dreams in our first year,” Maloney said. say. “There was so much cross-pollination between groups, and the FTA was a great behind-the-scenes presence that provided a space for people from all agencies and nonprofits to meet and mesh with their vision.”
Maloney said that in 2023, the FTA will continue to facilitate communication and outreach for all partner groups, increase attendance at trail maintenance days, fill classes, and continue to engage the public. I said I was aiming for One of his big events in late spring is Trailskills Weekend. It aims to provide free trail work training classes over long camp weekends to engage non-profit staff and the general public.
“So many people move here for access to outdoor recreation, and we want everyone to be involved in the next phase of increasing and maintaining that access. ‘ said Maloney. “Getting more people involved in the trail community is at the heart of what we do.”