New vision for area trails includes east-west route

9/5/2020 Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Guest Columnist Chet Work, GVLT Executive Director

Thirty years ago, members of the Bozeman community, including Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) founder Chris Boyd, shared a vision: to create an urban trail network that stretches from “Main Street to the Mountains.” Over the past few years, that vision was realized through the construction of trail segments including the Path to the “M” and Drinking Horse, and the Painted Hills Connector Trail.

These critical links now allow trail users to safely travel to the Bridger and Gallatin mountain ranges from the downtown business district. Few communities have achieved this kind of connectivity and this is something our community should be proud of and celebrate.

But for groups like GVLT, Bozeman Parks and Recreation Department, and Gallatin County this success is just the beginning. We recognize that trail access to town and to the mountains doesn’t come easily for many who live west of 19th Avenue. While GVLT has been working alongside developers to ensure trails and parkland are included in large developments on the west end of town, many of those trails lack good connectivity, safe street crossings and consistent way-finding signs.

Last fall, GVLT staff challenged each other to navigate their bikes from the western city limits to the eastern most city limits. Even with their knowledge of the trail system this was not an easy task. They ran into unmarked intersections, dead ends, and trails that had seemingly disappeared completely.

Working with the city of Bozeman’s parks planner, GVLT has been building support for a new vision: one that connects not just to the mountains, but to our neighborhoods, schools and businesses, not just north to south, but east to west, traversing the city. The goal is to create a safer, more connected community and to increase recreational trail use in and around some of the city’s most densely populated areas.

We envision a 12-mile “East to West” greenway that stretches past the new Gallatin High School and affordable housing developments like Larkspur Commons, through new neighborhoods like Flanders Mill Subdivision and around public parks like Story Mill Community Park and the Gallatin County Regional Park, along with growing centers of commerce like Midtown and the Cannery District.

A critical component of this project, the long-awaited Front Street Pathway Connector, will allow trail users to cross Bozeman Creek near Rouse Avenue, providing access to Story Mill Community Park from the northeast neighborhood. To the west, these trails would tie into future trail networks identified in the Triangle Area Trail Plan, a joint planning effort currently underway and led by GVLT and Gallatin County.

Key to this vision is understanding how our community uses trails for recreation and transportation purposes and creating a new way to help guide trail users along primary, secondary and tertiary routes. In the coming months, GVLT will partner with the city and the community to reimagine how way-finding can create new recreational and commuter opportunities in and around Bozeman. Long-term, we hope that this will encourage the creation of even more connected, easy-to-find routes around town.

GVLT is working to secure the commitment of city officials to provide the time, money and resources to plan for and install hundreds of way-finding signs, creating and restoring short trail segments to city standards, and ensuring that pedestrians and bikers have safe places to cross our busy street network.

GVLT has applied for some of the remaining funding in the city of Bozeman Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOP) bond fund. TOP funding for these projects will be combined with support from the federal, state, county agencies and the city, as well as private foundations and businesses. Together, this vision represents more than $700,000 investment in your urban trail network.

Thirty years ago, a generation of trail advocates set forth a bold vision for Bozeman. This is our opportunity to create the next Main Street to the Mountains trail, to be a part of a new vision for trails in the Gallatin Valley. To learn more about the East-West Connector Project, visit

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