Trail Updates

Make trails while the sun shines!

A trail report of some of our Summer 2018 trail improvements and updates.
Posted On July 14, 2018

Make trails while the sun shines! Thanks to over 800 community volunteer hours, 600 contract hours from our partners at Montana Conservation Corps (MCC), as well as help from the PPLT staff, city staff and other partners, your trails have been widened, narrowed, retread, tweaked, buttressed, bermed, cleaned up, leveled, de-rocked, re-rocked, shored up…you name it.

Trails on Mt. Ascension have been given the most noticeable tune-up. The lowest two switchbacks on Archery Range were converted to more user-friendly climbing turns. The City of Helena put the final touches on a gem of a bridge on 2017’s Aftershock Trail and PPLT hired and led an MCC crew in grading and spiffing up the path leading to the bridge. Entertainment Trail received a much needed retreading to fix the out-sloped sections that span much of the trail. You can thank MCC and the Montana Bicycle Guild volunteers for taking on this task and making the trail safer on corners. Finally, we’re happy to present the newest route to the Mt. Ascension trail network — a connector trail winding its way up from Prickly Pear to Easy Rider — creating a stimulating, single-track option for cutting from Bompart Hill to Mt. Ascension or vice versa.

Oof! I’m getting typist’s cramp just considering listing out all of our trail improvements, so instead here’s a snapshot of other changes. The length of Barking Dog has been re-tread and we’ve done our best to wick water away from the trail. We’re half way through re-treading Mt. Ascension Loop Trail to make the trail flatter and more user friendly. Sections of Mt. Helena Ridge Trail and Rodney Ridge have been built up out of their incised channels to make for better user experiences. This also helps  with our goal of being good stewards by preventing erosion and degradation. We know how seriously you, in Helena and the Valley, take your recreation and conservation, so we have been working across the web of trails, making tweaks here and there, to ensure people and dirt stay on the trails and water stays off.

But don’t worry, the summer heat isn’t slowing us down.  Keep an eye out for more improvements across the trail system. Pesky limbs will be trimmed, signs updated and inventoried, weeds catalogued and snuffed out, and more TLC applied  to the trails you hike, run and bike.

We would also like to take this opportunity to give a huge thanks to all our die-hard community volunteers as well as the following community partners who dawned their work gloves, and grabbed a pick to make our trails a happier place:

City of Helena, US Forest Service – Helena Ranger District, Montana Conservation Corps, Phat Trak Trail Company, Montana Bicycle Guild, Helena Climber’s Coalition, Keller Williams Realty, SoFi, Deloitte Accountants, Access to Success, Helena Middle School, Xylem Inc., Veteran’s Affairs, and Montana Youth Leadership Forum.

Our volunteers don’t only get thanked in blogs! We will be hosting a PPLT Volunteer Appreciation Party on August 20. Stay tuned for more updates and if you are one of our treasured volunteers, mark your calendars to join us on that day!

Evan Kulesa, Trails Coordinator 

Trails coordinators do not hibernate in winter

Your opinion wanted: Formation of new trail committee seeks to be collaborative and open
Posted On February 23, 2018

As a long-time, seasonal trail worker, busting my tail in the summer and goofing off in the winter, I knew I was in for a bit of shock when I joined PPLT as a full-time, year-round trails coordinator. What does a trail worker do in the winter?

Apparently, everyone else wonders this too as my most common question out at the brewery or at social gatherings with friends is, “What do you do all winter?” It is not meant to be a slight; I understand where they are coming from. The ground is frozen and the trails are covered with snow. So what exactly is my role as PPLT trails coordinator during this half of the year?

I won’t bore you with all the details of how I stay productive (and I do!), but I want to highlight one important role I have learned to embrace this winter and how you are so critical to this role.

The planning and decision-making processes on our public lands are a web of committees, different processes involving different people at different times for different outcomes. There are committees for city projects and various committees for various parts of the forest. Forest plans, open lands plans and South Hills trails plans, oh my! In the face of all of these different levels of planning and development, it is no wonder many citizens feel intimidated to get involved in the process.

Enter a crucial role PPLT is trying to help fill this winter. Alongside our land managers and other trails stakeholders, we have helped develop the Helena Area Trails Committee (HATC), which is dedicated to providing a place for the public to discuss trails and recreation ideas and issues. We are striving to be a one-stop shop where folks interested in area trails can go to get plugged in with other groups; learn about planning efforts; engage with land managers, PPLT and other trails stakeholder; and have their voices heard.

These committee meetings are open to the public and we invite you to visit and let us get to know you. We are a volunteer committee made up of a broad group of trail users who are imperfect, but the more we can get to know you, the more effective we can be.

I invite you to join us for our meetings the second Monday of each month from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in City-County Building Room 326. Our next meeting will be March 12. Or, if you can’t make it during that time, please feel free to give me a call or send an email.

Happy Trails!

Trail Talk with Evan

The city’s 2018 Helena Open Lands Work Plan is live and open for comments.
Posted On December 19, 2017

I’m writing a blog! I’ve always dreamt of this day!

Warning: My writing strengths do not lie in succinctness or clarity! (I also tend to overuse exclamation points!)

I am planning to write monthly or even more frequently during the summer to give you trail lovers some information on what is going on with your trail system in the South Hills. I thought right now would be an ideal time to start because we have some really exciting things happening this planning season!

The city’s 2018 Helena Open Lands Work Plan is live and open for comments. The work plan, which was developed through collaboration with many stakeholders, including PPLT, was introduced on Dec. 12 and is open for comment until Jan. 8 with an open house on Jan. 9. Check out the work plan HERE. Prickly Pear Land Trust is proud to support the entirety of the work plan and hopes you will join us in providing support to our land managers in this regard. Of course, constructive comments are always welcome! With that in mind, I would like to provide a little more background on one particular trail in the proposal since it is a new idea for the Helena trails community.

Mount Ascension Directional Trail Construction Project: You can read the work plan to get the fine details of the project and its implementation, so I’ll try to provide some additional helpful detail.

This trail will be preferred-use mountain bike with a mandatory direction and a reverse yield sign. Let’s break that down. Preferred-use mountain bike means that the trails will be designed specifically for bikers, but pedestrians will still be welcome to use the trails. Mandatory directionality means that all users must use the trails in the direction specified, in this case downhill. A reverse yield sign means that pedestrians yield to bikers on these trails, rather than the inverse, which is true on the rest of the trail system. Now that you have a better understanding of what this type of trail is, let me explain why we think it is a lovely idea!

First, we support well-planned and responsible mountain-bike-specific development in the South Hills. As we all know, more people of all modes of travel are using the trails every year. That is a good thing! I love that more and more people are enjoying this amazing Helena amenity. With that increased use, comes the need for better management of the system.

Second, PPLT recognizes the different reasons people use a trail. For some it is exercise, for some it is solitude in nature, for others seeing beautiful vistas, or even commuting. We recognize that for many bikers, as opposed to pedestrian users, the trail itself is the experience, and therefore an area like this that is purpose-built with bikes in mind is a great way to meet many bikers’ desires.

Third, we recognize that conflict is possible in a crowded trail system. As courteous as most users try to be, conflict is inevitable. We are embracing a strategy of encouraging certain uses and directions in certain areas to try to reduce conflict as much as we can. This project is a step in that direction.

A new trail idea like this does not come without thought (or scrutiny), so please feel free to drop me a line with any concerns or questions you have about this trail project (or any of the others). You can also write a comment to the city HERE regarding any portion of the plan. Thanks for reading, and I hope you will continue to help me and all of our partners dream of the South Hills trail system of the future!