The Beattie Street trailhead leading to Mount Ascension is primed for more parking, a plan that is causing some friction with nearby residents.
Helena's open lands division is working with the city engineering department to develop design options for relocating trailhead parking off of city streets and onto open lands.
At a recent city administrative meeting, Helena’s parks and recreation department director Amy Teegarden said the Mount Ascension trail system has become one of Helena's most popular, garnering nearly 50 percent of all open land use in Helena, according to the 2017 survey for trail counts completed by the department.
Teegarden said Beattie Street is the second-most-used trailhead in the park system.
“People are parking in the streets, and as homes are developed in the future, the parking is pushed narrower,” Teegarden said.
City officials had made a plan for the parking in order to apply for a grant, but citizen comment was precluded due to the speed of the turnaround for the application. Teegarden said a new alternative would be proposed in January, and it will involve public comment for the neighborhood.
However, some residents are irked that their voices weren't heard earlier in the process. During the meeting, resident Nick Sovner said residents want more control in the process because they feel like they aren’t being heard.
Helena resident Meg Bishop had similar complaints about the parking planning process.
“This is a responsive act, not a planning act,” Bishop said. “We haven’t been involved in the planning.”
Mary Hollow, executive director for the Prickly Pear Land Trust, said the goal is to find common ground between the residents and the trailhead users.
The Helena Open Lands Management Advisory Committee fully supports the Beattie Street trailhead expansion, member Eric Sivers said.
Concerns about traffic control were also brought up at the meeting. Ron Alles, Helena’s city manager, also noted that stop signs could be utilized to protect intersections as traffic increased.
Teegarden said in a later interview that those concerns will be addressed and the street department will be involved in the process.
“Doing nothing is not responsible,” Teegarden said.