PPLT COMPLETES PROTECTION OF LEGRANDE CANNON RECREATION AREA - an excerpt from PPLT's 2019 Summer Newsletter.
Our beloved public land is growing in size and community value. In July of 2019, Prickly Pear Land Trust purchased the LeGrande Cannon property from the William Whyte, Jr. family, then donated it to be the newest addition to Mt. Helena City Park.
At the base of our iconic landmark, roughly 90 acres of gentle foothills gained official protection. “The Whyte family has been so gracious with public access over the years, that many thought this was already public land,” stated PPLT Director, Mary Hollow. But now, it’s real and forever. The property straddles the edge of Helena, half a mile south of Kessler Elementary and offers open space for the public as a walking, biking, and nature route.
There is great history here too—the LeGrande Cannon Trail is one of Helena’s original carriage routes. The relatively flat trail is retired from motorized use, and remains the only accessible trail in the South Hills, serving to connect neighborhoods and pedestrians to the rest of Mt. Helena. Recent fire mapping has also identified the area as a particularly dangerous hotspot not well-suited for residential development. As PPLT’s Hollow puts it, “The conservation of this open space allows the public, in a broader sense, the opportunity to address some of the wildland-urban interface fuels hazards on the property.” Adding the property to existing public lands not only eliminates the dangers and costs of protecting homes in the fire-prone zone, but permits the city of Helena to thin excess trees and actually reduce the threat of wildfire.
For these reasons, Prickly Pear Land Trust has been trying to hammer out how best to protect this property for years. The parcel has been in private family ownership for generations. We are grateful to the Whyte family for their continued interest in conserving the property.
The neighbors around the LeGrande parcel also deserve a great deal of credit for their years of commitment to protecting the west flank of Mt. Helena for future generations. Two of those neighbors, Ken Eden, a long-time supporter and former board president of PPLT, and his wife, Liz, organized several hundred residents in support of the acquisition and transfer to public ownership.
Projects like these are increasingly costly, and a great deal of thanks go to the numerous supporters and community members who rallied to make sure PPLT had the wherewithal to complete this project. If they hadn’t stepped up and contributed funds, this acquisition would not have become a reality. In terms of open space advocacy, acres protected, outdoor ethic, and individual involvement, this community punches far above its weight. Thank you to every individual, partner and neighbor who helped make the LeGrande addition a grand success.