Two local organizations are among 52 statewide to receive grants this week in support of local recreational trails, Montana State Parks recently announced.

The Prickly Pear Land Trust is receiving $19,800 under the federal Recreational Trails Program, to assist in acquisition of a lot in the Alpine Meadows subdivision (off Arrowroot Road), helping ensure the preservation of land around the Entertainment Trail on Mount Ascension.

The award may increase after Congress passes a budget for transportation programs for fiscal year 2012. If the program is funded at the previous year’s level, the award could total $45,000.

The Last Chance Nordic Ski Club was awarded $17,820 (anticipated to increase to as much as $40,500) for grooming and maintenance of ski trails at MacDonald Pass and Bill Roberts Golf Course.

On Mount Ascension, the land acquisition will help ensure the access to and preservation of space along a popular trail with significant wildlife values, including the path of a migrating elk herd, said Andy Baur, Prickly Pear Land Trust executive director.

The area, including open meadows along the ridgetop, is a key part of the visual backdrop of the state Capitol.

The trust has acquired nine undeveloped lots in the subdivision from individual owners and has transferred ownership of five lots to the city of Helena for inclusion in its Open Lands Program, Baur said. 

The trust will transfer the other four lots once it pays off the debt from the purchases.  It’s also interested in acquiring two more lots.

Without the move to acquire the parcels, “This highly popular trail would likely be closed as practical reroutes would be nearly impossible,” the trust said in its application for the grant.

Baur said the group is thankful that organizations like Montana Fish, Wildlife State Parks “see the values both from a wildlife and a community standpoint.”

The grants, administered by the Montana State Parks (with oversight by the Federal Highways Administration), are funded by federal taxes on fuel for off-road vehicles, including ATVs and light trucks. They require a match by the recipient of at least 20 percent.

Montana State Parks received a record 72 applications for the funds, which total $600,000 so far, with the complete amount expected to increase when the federal transportation budget is passed and enacted.

Reporter Sanjay Talwani: 447-4086 or sanjay.talwani@helenair.com

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