Funding approved for open lands projects throughout Gallatin County

April 18, 2023

by Alex Miller, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

The Gallatin County Commission greenlit more than $450,000 for open lands projects throughout the county Tuesday. Just over $458,000 in funding from the Open Lands Program was approved for six projects in Bozeman, Three Forks, West Yellowstone, Big Sky and Four Corners. There were 11 applications submitted to the Open Lands Program for “other projects,” meaning projects focused on land buying, trail building or restoration. The combined funding requests for those projects sought about $864,000 in taxpayer funding. The slate of six approved projects included trail building and upkeep, watercourse restoration, and land acquisition — criteria that Commissioner Jennifer Boyer said were hallmarks of the program.

“It makes me just want to double the money available because there’s a lot of great stuff that’s happening across the county,” Boyer said.

Gallatin Valley Land Trust got approved for a $100,000 proposal for an East-West Connector Trail. Matt Parsons, trails director for GVLT, said that the project would connect existing trails in a crosstown route that would form a 15-mile continuous path from the westernmost part of Bozeman to the M and Drinking Horse trailheads. The Open Lands funding will be used to build new trail segments, expand sidewalks to make shared use paths, and install signage along the entirety of the trail.

Another $100,000 went to the Yellowstone Shortline Trail project, which aimed to transform an abandoned railroad bed into a 9-mile trail from West Yellowstone to Reas Pass on the border of Montana and Idaho.

Ellen Butler, project coordinator for the Yellowstone Shortline Trail, said the total cost of the trail would be $4.8 million. So far, $4.6 million has been raised.

Butler said that 6 miles of the trail and three bridges have been built.

The commission also approved $100,000 for the Three Forks-based Headwaters Trail System.

Gene Townsend, chair of the trail system, said that money would go toward maintenance on 6 miles of trail that has been damaged by vegetation, rodents and trees. The entire of the project will cost $182,500, according to county documents.

Work will include removing and paving the most damaged parts of the trail, he said. The project would start at a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Madison River, and pushes east to the trail’s end in Logan.

“It’s not a real exciting project, but it’s one that’s very much needed,” Townsend said.

Another $100,000 approval was granted to the Big Sky Owners Association for the Little Coyote Pond and West Fork River restoration project.

Suzan Scott, executive director of the association, said that the Little Coyote Pond has silted since being built on a tributary of the West Fork of the Gallatin River in the 1970s. For example, the deepest parts of the pond are 4 to 5 feet deep, which has caused fish to not survive in the winter, she said.

The project aims to dredge the pond while also restoring the stream channel. The pond will also be deepened to enhance conditions for fish growth and survivability, according to county documents.

Funds from the county would only make up a small chunk of the project’s $1.59 million price tag.

Eagle Mount was awarded $38,928 to acquire 20 acres that abut the nonprofit’s Goldenstein Lane campus in Bozeman. The addition would double the campus’ size.

Kevin Sylvester, executive director of Eagle Mount, said the land would be used for future recreation facilities, more public access to the Gallagator Trail and additional parking. The total cost of the project is roughly $2 million.

The lowest amount the commission approved — $19,295 — went to a proposal from the Craighead Institute. April Craighead said that the project was intended to plant about 125 native trees and shrubs along the West watercourse in the Gallatin County Regional Park.

Craighead said the project would improve wildlife habitat and improve water quality of the watercourse.

Though six projects were approved, there were seven that were presented.

Crosscut Mountain Sports Center applied for $100,000 to help build a roller-ski loop. The project did hit the minimum criteria in the Open Lands Program to be considered, but it was not recommended to be funded by the Open Lands Board.

“I just encourage you to come back again,” Boyer said.

Read the original article here.