Land Transfer Launches East Helena Project

The transfer of two properties, totalling 323 acres along Prickly Pear Creek begins the multi-Year Greenway and parkland project. Green space is a part of a bright East Helena future.

The Greenway is a “Go!” The East Helena Greenway Project, first envisioned by the community 10 years ago, is officially on the path to reality as a result of the transfer of 323 acres of former ASARCO smelter property to Prickly Pear Land Trust. On December 30, after years of multi-partner collaboration, the Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG) conveyed title to 243 acres along the reconstructed Prickly Pear Creek corridor south of Highway 12 and approximately 80 acres along the creek near Kennedy Park in East Helena to PPLT. The lands will be developed into a park system with 8-miles of trail on remediated and revitalized former smelter lands. PPLT will work with the State of Montana Natural Resource Damage Program (NDRP) on design, construction and maintenance of the Greenway recreational access and educational amenities, using the $3.2 million allocated to the Greenway Project in the NRDP plan that Governor Bullock approved in 2019.

As 2020 comes to a close, the Greenway Project offers a new beginning for lands and waters in East Helena. The Greenway Project exemplifies how a community can honor its industrial past while positioning itself for economic opportunity, community health and quality of life. The former smelter lands near the newly constructed East Helena public elementary and high schools will be transformed into a trail system that will connect East Helena to Montana City. Once the Greenway trail and amenities are fully developed, PPLT will transfer the 323 acres to the East Helena Public Schools. East Helena Public Schools has agreed to serve as the long-term steward of the Greenway land. Where possible, the trail will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible to encourage people of all ages and abilities to enjoy this community asset.

Mary Hollow, PPLT Executive Director, said of the project, “Ten years ago, the City of East Helena asked Prickly Pear Land Trust to help envision trails and public access on this land. It’s incredible to celebrate this project coming to life. This community—with new schools, businesses, and now the Greenway Trail—is poised for a strong future. A project of this magnitude only happens with incredible partnerships, I commend those who have made this possible. With access to 322 acres of new outdoor space, we know that when kids achieve a greater connection to the outdoors, they experience happier and healthier lives. What an incredibly smart move for this forward-thinking community.”

East Helena Mayor Jamie Schell added that “The Greenway project honors the hard-working, proud and dedicated people that built this community. Leaving the Greenway for generations of families and visitors to safely enjoy for decades to come is something to be really proud of and I thank all of those that made it happen. History should never be forgotten, only built on.”

Kicking off construction in 2021, the Greenway project will be the latest and most ambitious project in Prickly Pear Land Trust’s Community Conservation portfolio.

METG is Trustee of the Montana Environmental Custodial Trust. For more information about METG and cleanup of the former ASARCO smelter, see: