‘Special and unique’: GVLT hits ambitious trail challenge goal

June 27, 2024
Bozeman Daily Chronicle
By Isaac Green

The Gallatin Valley Land Trust hit its goal of 90,000 miles and then some during the 9th Annual Summer Trails Challenge, with trail-goers logging 97,408 miles as of Thursday afternoon.

“Everybody had a role to play, and I think that was really special and unique when it comes to philanthropy, that people didn’t have to necessarily reach into their own pockets,” GVLT Associate Director EJ Porth said. “They could match the generosity of the businesses with their love for the outdoors.”

The organization partners with local businesses each year, who donate to a sponsor match pool that community members unlock as they hit the trails and log their miles — $1 for every mile. Porth said when the nonprofit began the challenge nine years ago, they set a goal of 20,000 miles.

“At the time, that even felt hard to do, and every year we’ve added and the businesses just keep showing up and keep putting money into that match pool,” Porth said. “I would love to say that we knew this would happen, but every year we’re nervous and every year this community surprises us.”

Things like weather make it hard to reach the goal some years, according to Porth, so this year’s conditions were advantageous.

“I think because the summer kind of got a late start, people were itching to get outside,” Porth said. “It felt like people got out there more quickly and more often than they have in years past. We also just got really lucky with the beautiful weather. The trails are in great shape. They’re dried out. People took advantage of it.”

GVLT lists the sponsors for the challenge on its events page with contribution categories ranging from $500 and up to $5,000 and up.

“Another amazing feature about where we live is that the businesses that operate here know that a community with trails is good for their bottom line, it’s good for their business, because employees want to live, work, and play in a place that has access to the outdoors,” Porth said.

“They are putting their money where their mouth is, and it’s so cool to see.

The challenge is founded upon the idea of “collective impact,” according to Porth, who said GVLT wants to reframe what it means to give back.

“It doesn’t have to be at a gala, it doesn’t have to be a large financial contribution, there are so many ways that people can be part of this community and be part of this effort,” Porth said. “The trails challenge was a way to let everybody, regardless of their financial means, regardless of their schedule, their family status, where they live in the valley, they could be part of GVLT’s work to expand the trail system.”

GVLT hosted a celebratory BBQ at its office Thursday night open to everyone who participated in the challenge and logged miles. Montana Ale Works and Athletic Brewing sponsored the celebration.

“I just want the community to know that we are accelerating the pace of both our conservation work and our trails work because we see the growth in this community, and we are constantly thinking 50 years ahead and imagining what types of trails and what kind of outdoor access are the people that live here gonna need,” Porth said. “Even so far as to say, ‘What is my one and a half year old son gonna need when he’s graduating high school, when he wants to live here one day? How can we make sure this stays an amazing place to live for future generations?’”

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