Restoration and preservation — these words get batted around a lot these days, and they usually require significant effort from those who want to save threatened buildings or landscapes from destruction. Keep in mind that it’s not only the bricks and mortar or trees and trails that are being preserved. It’s the story we share, the history that happened there, the intangible as well as the tangible that represents who we are and where we came from, what we cared about, our hopes and dreams for the future. Restored and preserved places represent the people who came forward and said “this is worth the effort”. -Mary Jane Bradbury
PPLT’s only conservation easement to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For more than 150 years, members of the Gehring family have been working the land in the hills northwest of Helena. Today, Bill Gehring carries on that tradition, raising cattle and bison on more than 2,800 acres.
“I feel like I’m living my dream,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a rancher.”
Now, this century-long heritage has been officially recognized, as the Gehring Ranch was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Gehring family celebrated the designation on Saturday, along with some of the other people who helped make it possible.
“I sure can’t thank them enough,” Gehring said.
The aged buildings of the Gehring Ranch northwest of Helena contain a wealth of history across multiple generations, and now that history has been officially recognized with the ranch’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Gehring family gathered in celebration over the weekend with friends and historians who spent nearly two years working towards the listing. More than 20 structures needed cataloging and researching, but fortunately the family had kept detailed records of several shifts in agricultural practices on the ranch.
Prickly Pear Land Trust and its community partners celebrated a big milestone Thursday as they completed the next step in their project to restore parts of Sevenmile Creek outside Helena.
Construction work began in June on the 2.2 mile section of the creek near the Scratchgravel Hills. The work involved closing off a portion of the damaged stream and rerouting water to the new channel. Years ago, the water was manually redirected and as a result, the current stream bed became eroded and the channel deepened. That erosion forced sediment downstream and into the Lake Helena watershed – which became a problem and is ultimately what spurred the beginning of the restoration work.
As a damaged portion of Sevenmile Creek was closed Thursday, wildlife officials were on hand to electroshock and relocate the fish that became trapped there.
Water will now flow into a newly restored channel, returning the creek to its original floodplain, and volunteers assisted biologists by hauling buckets of the saved fish from one channel to the other.
According to Prickly Pear Land Trust, this will improve the condition of the creek overall and allow for healthier riparian vegetation and habitat.
When Prickly Pear Land Trust acquired property along Sevenmile Creek as part of the Peaks to Creeks Initiative in 2016, there were evident signs of degradation along the banks. Erosion and weeds overtook the property, and sedimentation deeply affected the creek, which is a main tributary to Tenmile Creek, one of the Helena Valley’s primary water sources.
PPLT has begun a project that aims to restore the area, which stretches northwest from the intersection of Birdseye Road and Head Lane north of Helena. With the necessary time and funding, PPLT hopes to restore the 350-acre property as a thriving wetland, help bolster biodiversity in the area and rehabilitate the creek back to its natural state.
Tenmile Creek channels waters from the mountains west of Helena, winding through the Helena Valley on its way to Lake Helena.
The only urban public access to the creek comes at the park that bears its name, and on Tuesday Prickly Pear Land Trust celebrated Tenmile Creek Park’s official opening with a media tour focused on the partnerships that brought the project to fruition.
Thank you to all who came out to enjoy the beautiful day, and to our volunteer leaders who make this race possible. This race celebrates our public lands, open space, and world-class trail system in Helena’s South Hills. It requires over 100 volunteers and hundreds of volunteer hours preparing for race day, serving as traffic course-guards, cheering on runners, race medics/EMT’s, and so much more.
All volunteer and race planning is led by PPLT’s race committee, many of whom have served on that committee for 18 years. To our race committee members Betsy Nordell, Bob Walker, Charlie Adams, Dave Hagen, Jonathan Krauss, Kelli Butenko, Martin Miller, Mike Roberts, Paul Lavigne, Peggy O’Neill, Robert Rasmussen, and Sherry Berrin: On behalf of PPLT staff and board, trail-lovers throughout Montana and beyond, and each of the 1,000 runners, walkers, and dog-walkers from this year…THANK YOU for your commitment to the work of the land trust and for an incredible event for our community!!
The 30K field of 215 competitors was the largest in race history, as was the DFMI overall total, including the 12K and 5K races of 997 entrants, breaking the old record by more than 200 runners.
“I ran this a couple years ago, it was a little rougher then, and I was always wanted to come back; these are beautiful trails,” said Murphy, 36, who finished ahead of Helena’s John Fitzgerald and Matt Roberts, respectively.
Helena’s South Hills trail system is often pointed to as a major attraction and economic influence, and now a study released last week provides some hard data to show just how many locals and visitors hike, run and bike the trails.
Last year from May to September, the University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research conducted a trail usage and economic impact study on the South Hills. To gather data, a monitor moved between trailheads, counting users and surveying them on residency and spending.