Better have your gloves ready and pulaskis sharpened – the trail and stewardship season will keep us all sweating in 2019. While continuing to provide maintenance support and labor to both the Forest Service and City of Helena in the South Hills, we’re spicing things up and working on projects around the valley and in the backcountry. Here’s a snapshot of what we’re looking at for the service season.
PPLT has a robust lineup of volunteer events and maintenance projects on Mt. Ascension and Mt. Helena and everything in between. In addition to the routine activities of cleaning drainage structures on fall-line trails, PPLT will work to reclaim widening and braided trails, surface community trails with decomposed granite, build up entrenched trails and generally encourage dirt and people to stay on the trails. Also, keep your eyes out for PPLT volunteers and groups on and around the trails doing noxious weed monitoring and abatement throughout the summer.
At the southern extent of the South Hills we’ve been asked to join a new project. PPLT is the project partner on behalf of the Helena Ranger District for the proposed trails connecting the Mt. Helena Ridge Trailhead to the Brooklyn Bridge area, along SkiHi Peak, and back to the South Hills via Tucker Gulch. Project work in 2019 includes establishing the final trail alignment as well as working to clear the corridor for the new trail from Brooklyn Bridge to Tucker Gulch. The entire project is about 11 miles and will be built as directed by the Forest Service over the next three to five years.
Meanwhile, west of Helena, PPLT and volunteers will be helping out with the re-route of the old Kading Grade trail near the Kading Campground in partnership with the Montana High Divide Trails Group and the Helena National Forest. The overall scope of the project involves completing a trail from Kading Campground to Cottonwood Lake that skirts the proposed Electric Peak Wilderness. This project is in collaboration with Montana Bicycle Guild, Montana Wilderness Association, and Last Chance Backcountry Horsemen. Work in 2019 will focus on clearing the trail corridor in anticipation of a 2020 trail build.
For those who like to stay a little closer to home, a major maintenance project and upgrade at Tenmile Creek Park is on the docket. With the help of an army of community volunteers and Montana Conservation Corps members, PPLT built a 900-foot section of natural surface trail connecting the Centennial Trail to Tenmile Creek Park in 2018. This year, PPLT will widen this trail to meet universal accessibility standards and surface the path with decomposed granite to complete the connection.
In response to last year’s flooding at the park, we will rebuild the flooded trails to meet the same accessibility standards and incorporate new drainage structures to prevent impacts from future floods. To encourage folks to linger a little longer, we will be adding a new staircase down to the creek and providing wheelchair accessible pads next to the picnic tables. Lastly, we are equipping the park with a Mutt Mitt station and trash can.
The communities along Prickly Pear Creek and the creek itself are healing from years of pollution and economic disruption. Since 2010, PPLT has worked with the community of East Helena and agencies to plan a recreational trail system that loops around East Helena, creating pedestrian and bike-safe connections between town and Prickly Pear Creek, before heading upstream and connecting to Montana City’s community trails. PPLT is currently working with federal, state, and local agencies and organizations to secure funding not only for the construction of the trail system, but for its long-term maintenance and management. Once funding is in place and all partners agree to the plan, PPLT will begin working to secure key properties and rights of way, and begin trail and amenity development.
At the base of our beloved Mount Helena, roughly 90 acres of gentle foothills may soon gain official protection. The LeGrande property straddles the edge of Helena, south and west of Kessler Elementary. The property would be a great addition to the park and is also bisected by the historic LeGrande Cannon Trail. The relatively flat trail is retired from motorized use, and remains one of the only accessible trails in the South Hills, serving to connect neighborhoods and pedestrians to the park. Prickly Pear Land Trust is in talks with the landowners hammering out the purchase of the property. By donating a significant portion of the value, the family is making this stellar project possible. Once purchased, PPLT plans to turn the parcels over to the City of Helena to be added to city open lands. As with several properties in the past, PPLT can then work with the city to formalize access and provide routine maintenance.