Ribbon Cutting on the Ridge

June 24, 2022

“Wow, do we have the fittest donors of any nonprofit in Bozeman?” GVLT Lands Director Brendan Weiner remarked as the group set a brisk pace up the steep route to the “M.”

Conversation quickly devolved into labored breathing as 16 brave souls steadily climbed 3,000 feet toward the base of Mount Baldy on the summer solstice. The destination? A one-half mile section of the Bridger Ridge Trail that passes through private property owned by the Newhalls, a longtime Bozeman family with a strong dedication to public access and conservation.

Our hiking group, made up of Newhall Family members, project donors, GVLT staff and US Forest Service partners, had assembled at 6 am. Steadily, we made the trek to the ridge for a ribbon cutting celebration, comically large scissors and all.

Over the past year, GVLT staff worked closely with the Newhall Family and the Forest Service to complete a trail easement through the Newhall property. This easement will grant permanent access to the section of trail that cuts through private property, ensuring that the entirety of the Bridger Ridge Trail will remain accessible to the public in perpetuity.

We finally allowed ourselves a brief rest at the “M” as we paused to take in the surroundings. “Wow – Bozeman is in peak form right now!” said Charlie von Avis, a staff member from project partner onX Maps. We paused to take in the vast hillsides blanketed with arrowleaf balsamroot and larkspur. The Bridgers continued to put on a show as we hiked onward. A western tanager flitted from tree to tree and Indian paintbrush made its first appearance of the season.

At last, we emerged at the large open meadows south of Mount Baldy, which mark the property boundary of the Newhall Property. The group unshouldered packs and GVLT Development Director Justin Barth conjured up a “mobile aid station,” complete with nuts, berries, and fruit bars for all. After circling up, Katy Kelly of the Newhall Family and Chad Klinkenborg of GVLT both highlighted the tremendous partnership, patience, and foresight needed to tackle a project like this. Katy spoke of the multi-generation commitment to conservation in the Newhall Family and how “Granny Jane” would have been proud to see this project come to fruition.

Speeches complete, the big scissors came out and Jo Newhall and Katy Kelly cut the ribbon spanning the Bridger Ridge Trail, held by Chad Klinkenborg of GVLT and Cory Lewellen from the US Forest Service. Beaming with pride, every member of the group shouldered our packs and began the knee-busting descent to the “M” parking lot for Wild Crumb treats and coffee – a requisite reward for any trip to the Ridge.

Thank you to the Newhall family and our many project partners and donors. Lead project support came from SITKA who made a generous gift through the SITKA Ecosystem Grants program. Additional support was provided from the Trom Family, Knoff Group Real Estate, Seessel Family, Bridger Canyon Property Owners’ Association, The Mountain Project, Mystery Ranch, onX, Megyn and William Lansing, Dan Porter, and dozens of individual supporters.