This past summer, the Gallatin County Park Commission and the Gallatin County Planning Board completed the next step in the county’s comprehensive park and trail planning process. With the assistance of Chris Seifert from Montana PBS and a grant from Blueprint America, Gallatin County and Montana PBS created the Interconnect Challenge (interconnectchallenge.blogspot.com) to collect information, provide educational community outreach, and meet with local public officials, decision-makers, and advocacy groups.
The event, held July 20-24, challenged user groups from all types of recreation areas to navigate a route around Gallatin county without a car. The purpose was to evaluate the concerns about parks and trails that citizens raised at community meetings and through a March 2009 survey (see the survey results at gallatincountyinterconnect.com). Along the route, the groups documented the challenges they faced with regard to safety, access, enjoyment, and functionality. Additionally, local public officials then met with participants to listen and provide information about parks and trails in their respective communities.
Some of the questions that came from the Interconnect Challenge were:
Do we need a paved trail from Bozeman to Belgrade, and where should it be?
What happens to horseback riding on dirt roads when they get paved?
Is it realistic to build a pedestrian trail from Bozeman to West Yellowstone?
How can we mitigate the concerns of different user groups so they can utilize the same parks and trails?
Why is there so much controversy between motorized and nonmotorized users?
How do trails get maintained?
How do we address safety concerns along roadways?
And most importantly, how will we pay for a better system?
In the end, the groups learned that the primary use of county trails is for recreation, not transportation, and reported a need for a more organized system of trails and parklands throughout the county. A full report is available under “Interconnect Challenge Information” at gallatincountyinterconnect.com.
The next step will be to bring all this information to a series of roundtable discussions that address everything from public transportation to land-use management to agriculture to tourism. The roundtables will attempt to get direction from a large variety of stakeholders in order to provide the most functional and practical solutions possible.
The information gathered from the Interconnect Challenge, surveys, and roundtables will be used to complete a comprehensive, countywide parks and trails plan. The county plans to host groups for rural land users, land-use management agencies, transportation managers, tourism and travel managers, businesses, user groups, developers, and health advocates.
Not all roundtables had been scheduled at press time. For more information please contact Ada Montague at the Gallatin County Planning Department (311 W. Main St., Room 108, Bozeman) at 582-3130 or [email protected]