Editorial: Planning trails before development continues

June 22, 2021

By the Bozeman Daily Chronicle Editorial Staff

Intense residential development is anticipated within the triangle of land defined by Bozeman, Belgrade and Four Corners at its corners. And planners have developed a guide for how trails for pedestrians and cyclists should lace through the area.

What a novel concept: plan for trails before the streets, houses and commercial establishments are built.

The Bozeman area boasts a much treasured and extensive trail system that allows walkers and cyclists to wend their ways throughout the area and between destinations. But much of that system was established by shoehorning the trails in after extensive development had already taken place. It was a complicated effort carried out by advocates who worked to secure rights-of-way through existing neighborhoods and commercial areas.

The Triangle Area Trails Plan points out potential routes for trails to connect future neighborhoods, schools, parks and commercial areas before they are built within the fastest-growing part of Gallatin County.

Rapid growth has steamrolled many communities throughout the nation in the past. Lack of advance planning allowed development to happen in chaotic ways. Only after the fact did policymakers realize how things could have been done differently to provide a more livable community for their citizens.

The greater Bozeman area has been identified by the U.S. Census Bureau as the fastest growing micropolitan area in the nation in recent years. And that’s unlikely to change in the near term. We can say with certainty that — 25 years from now — the triangle area will look much different than it does today, with many more people living within its borders.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the area must be paved over in its entirety with no open space or pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly accessibility. The triangle presents a unique opportunity to map out a community that offers the kind of quality of life amenities we all want.

Those who have contributed to planning for the triangle are commended for their work, and policymakers and developers are urged to use that work to ensure growth happens in the best ways possible.

Go to the trail plan consultant’s website at https://sandersonstewart.com/projects/triangletrails/ to see the plan, sign up for a newsletter and learn of opportunities for public engagement.

Read the original article here.