Those who walk a 36-acre tract of open space on Helena’s southeast side for exercise and to enjoy a bit of respite from the city will have a trail to use there by later this summer.
Montana State Parks awarded the City of Helena $27,000 to help pay for a roughly 4,000-foot trail, including some of the existing sidewalk, said Brad Langsather, the Parks and Recreation Department natural resource coordinator.
Work on the trail will start this summer and is expected to be completed by mid-August, Langsather said last Thursday.
The city doesn’t have any designated or established trails on that property, which he describes as one of the real jewels of the city's open space.
“Our idea is to provide that part of town with a designated trail that is on a gentle piece of ground,” Langsather continued.
The trail connects with a parking area on Cabernet Drive near its intersec-tion with Saddle Drive and then loops through the property before ending at Saddle Drive, according to a map provided by Langsather.
This is one of 54 projects funded through $1.4 million awarded by Montana State Parks. The money is appropriated to the states through the 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act that was passed by Congress.
The trail will be built to meet Americans with Disabilities Act specifications, Langsather said, explaining that the slope of the trail will be kept to 5 percent or less. The trail’s surface will consist of “decomposed granite,” which is a fine enough material to compact, unlike gravel, so it can be used by those walking with young children as well as accommodate parents pushing children in strollers, he said.
Proposing a trail that meets ADA guidelines is one of the reasons this project was funded, said Beth Shumate, the FWP trails coordinator.
Helena has a limited number of trails that meet the federal accessibility standards, she added.
State Parks received almost $3 million of project applications for the allocated money that would cover about half of that cost, Shumate said.
The community involvement and partnerships that the Parks and Recreation had with organizations such as the Prickly Pear Land Trust also help its application receive funds, she said.
Christine Patten, a Helena Girl Scout, helped to co-author the grant application, research the federal accessibility guidelines and assist in the layout and design of the trail as part of her effort to earn a Gold Award, which is the highest honor Girl Scouts ages 14 to 18 can achieve, according to the State Parks news release.
The trail is being designed to avoid conflicts, such as cross-trail throws, with the popular disc-golf course on the property, Langsather said.
Patten is scheduled to be working with volunteers to fence the Cabernet Drive parking area next week, Langsather said. A three-rail fence, which is standard on city open space properties, is to be installed.
Because the city received less money than it had sought in the grant, plans are being reworked for the bridge that spans a gulley on the 36 acres, Land-sather said. He is not yet sure what its final design will be which will help better match the project’s costs with available city and grant funds.