New safe crossing on east-west ‘Raptor Route’

Next week, GVLT contractors will begin work on another key connection in a series of trails that will ultimately traverse from the Gallatin River to the west to the M trailhead to the east. A new protected pedestrian crossing will be installed on Durston Avenue between Laurel Parkway and North Cottonwood Drive along the “Raptor Route,” formerly known as the East-West Connector. Like a bridge providing safe passage over a rapid river, the new feature will provide a safer crossing across a busy road to connect the popular gravel trails on either side.

More than 30 years ago, GVLT founder Chris Boyd had a vision to create a network of trails that stretched from “Main Street to the Mountains.” Over the past three decades, GVLT and many partners have worked together to help realize that dream by creating a trail system that now spans nearly 100 miles.

At the same time, as the city has continued to grow, GVLT has worked alongside developers to ensure trails and parkland are included in new development, much of which is occurring on the west side of town. However, these newer trails lacked connectivity to the larger system. That inspired a new vision—to create critical connections that tie together the existing Main Street to the Mountains system and ensure all residents can safely travel to schools, services, parks, and work.

Throughout the past few years, we have partnered with the City of Bozeman and Gallatin County to create the connections and safe crossings necessary to make this dream a reality. Highlights to date have included the completion of the Path to the M in 2019 and the Front Street Pathway, including a bridge over Bozeman Creek, in 2021. On the west side of town, GVLT resurrected a mile of trail that had completely disappeared under weeds and turf grass in and around Traditions Park.

“These key east side connections, combined with increased development in the west that includes new trails, really catalyzed this into a big, bold vision,” explains GVLT Trails Director Matt Parsons.

The new protected pedestrian crossing is the latest link in the chain. It is expected to be completed by the end of May.

The Raptor Route was also designed to make use of big green spaces, including the Gallatin Regional Park and Story Mill Community Park.

“The Raptor Route connects people to nature and each other, through some of the most densely populated parts of Bozeman,” says Parsons.

The City is also in the process of developing wayfinding signage that will guide trail users through the route, totaling approximately 15 miles. The installation of wayfinding is being funded by money remaining in the Trails, Open Space, and Parks (TOP) Bond and Gallatin County Open Space Levy.

“Long, interconnected trails have proven to increase user participation,” shares Parsons. “They connect people and communities. They facilitate active transportation and recreation. They get kids to school and parents to work.”