Trail Talk with Evan

The city’s 2018 Helena Open Lands Work Plan is live and open for comments.

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!