Each year the Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) honors an individual, organization or agency that deserves recognition for improving or expanding access to trails for the community. GVLT is proud to give to the 2021 Trail Partner Award to Gallatin County. While GVLT has been working closely with Gallatin County on conservation easements through the Gallatin County Open Lands Program, the partnership to support trail development is more recent and worthy of celebration and praise.
Gallatin County was chosen as the recipient of the award for their work on multiple trails related projects. During the public process to develop the Triangle Community Plan, led by the Planning Coordinating Committee including representatives from Gallatin County, Belgrade and Bozeman, the community shared that they wanted to see high quality, connected, accessible and safe trails in the Triangle Area as it develops. Because of available infrastructure and proximity to population centers, the Triangle Area between Bozeman, Belgrade and Four Corners is likely to see high density residential development in the coming years. After considerable public comment, the Triangle Community Plan identified a need for a Triangle Area Trail Plan, a vision that could ensure connectivity ahead of development. Gallatin County showed their commitment to this vision immediately and entered into an agreement with the Gallatin Valley Land Trust to financially support the creation of a trail plan for the area. The Triangle Trail Plan, still in progress, shows the community that Gallatin County shares the value of trails and is ensuring that a trail system grows alongside future development in the area.
Gallatin County has also shown leadership in their work at the Gallatin Regional Park, 100 acres on the west side of Bozeman. The park has seen significant improvements in recent months, most notably at the dog park at Ferguson and Oak. Their partnership with Run Dog Run has made that dog park one of the most widely used in town and a true community center for neighborhoods in the west side of Bozeman. The County also led efforts to create and groom cross country ski trails on the southwest corner of the Regional Park. These Nordic trails are the only groomed trails on the west side of town and a welcomed addition during a year where people are eager for outdoor physical activity near home. GVLT is additionally grateful for the partnership with the small yet mighty Gallatin County Parks Department to address missing wayfinding signage and safe connections across the park property. This partnership is part of a larger GVLT effort to move people by foot or bike from the farthest west subdivision in Bozeman and Gallatin High School, east toward downtown and the rest of the Main Street to the Mountains trail system.
Lastly, Gallatin County has prioritized public access by creating a grant funding program through the Gallatin County Open Lands Program, renewed by voters in 2018, to support projects county-wide that create and enhance public access to the outdoors. This special funding source will ensure that communities all over the county have resources to match state and federal funding sources to complete enduring, inclusive, outdoor experiences.
GVLT is grateful for the commitment of Gallatin County Commissioners, Planning Department, and Parks Department to the value of trails and public access in our growing community. Thank you Gallatin County!