Despite the unknowns associated with COVID-19 and social distancing, PPLT will continue to provide maintenance support and labor to both the Forest Service and City of Helena in the South Hills during this time. In addition, Tenmile Creek Park remains open and maintained. Though we don’t yet know when our volunteer trail work will start this year, here’s a snapshot of our service projects, to get you dreamin’ of summer:
In addition to the routine maintenance activities like 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. Keep an eye out for a return to volunteer trail work and youth education in the South Hills once we get the “all clear” and can return to playing in the dirt together.
At the southern extent of the South Hills, we are assisting our local Forest Service office in the implementation of an ambitious project. PPLT is the lead 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 2020 includes final alignment approval by the Forest Service and getting our ducks in a row for construction in summer of 2021. When completed, the entire project will consist of about 11 miles of primarily new single-track trail and bring over a decade of planning and preparation to life. We can’t wait for you to see it and explore it!
*Brooklyn Bridge is the name of an old mine near the proposed trail for those of you scratching your heads!
Be on the lookout for a proposal from our friends at the Bureau of Land Management for a formalized, managed trail system in the 5,000+ acre Scratchgravel Hills northwest of Helena. Unmanaged, multi-use recreation has long been in place in the Scratchies but the BLM will be seeking public input on a proposal to introduce a formalized trail system to the area. We will keep you in the loop when the comment period opens.
The Park keeps getting better. PPLT and friends will continue raking, tweaking, fluffing, smoothing, and repairing the trail as needed. Look out for a new shade structure near the bathroom this spring that should provide some respite from summer heat. Additionally, we hope to remove and replace trees that were damaged in last year’s plague of grasshoppers. Stay tuned for these and more updates.
The communities along Prickly Pear Creek and the creek itself continue to heal from years of pollution and economic disruption. Since 2010, PPLT has worked with the community of East Helena and various 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. We expect a flood of residents rediscovering their creek! Once all of the funding is in place and the conceptual design plan is finished, 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. Stay tuned!