Trail Ambassador Program: making connections on area trails
2/12/2016 Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Carve Special Section by Terry Cunningham
On my third outing as a Trail Ambassador in the winter of 2014/15, I experienced first-hand the importance of proper trail etiquette and the potential for user group conflict. Patrolling on my Nordic skis on the Sourdough Canyon Trail, I was cruising downhill around a sharp bend when I saw a cute-as-a-button Beagle on the right side of the groomed trail and the Beagle’s owner to the far left. Neither the dog nor its owner were of particular note; I’d passed dozens of happy two-legged and four-legged hikers that day. What was noteworthy about this pair was that they were connected by a 15-foot retractable leash stretched across the entire expanse of the trail, too high to hurdle and too low to limbo.
Once I disentangled myself from the ensuing leash/ski/Beagle/ski pole/dog-owner jumble and removed a plug of snow from my ear, I was able to turn the event into a teachable moment, explaining to the dog owner that all users have a role to play in keeping our wonderful trail system safe and enjoyable for one another.
The Trail Ambassador program is entering its second year in the Custer Gallatin National Forest and Bozeman’s in-town trail system and it has already generated some impressive statistics. Trail Ambassador volunteers went on 138 separate outings, logging over 350 hours on local trails, and had conversations with over 4,000 trail users including skiers, hikers, bikers, snowshoers, dog walkers, ice climbers and hunters.