The city of Helena has placed new signage at a trail on Mount Helena that was closed in 2013 but has continued to see use by hikers and mountain bikers.
The city closed a portion of the Ambrose Trail above Le Grande Cannon Boulevard that crosses private property in 2013, after a landowner fenced it off. The city then relocated the trail entirely onto city property, but the public has continued to use the closed trail to varying degrees, city open lands manager Brad Langsather said.
The city has again received complaints from landowners. In response, the city placed signage where the closed trail branches onto private land to alert trail users to the closure.
The open lands department also plans to prioritize the closure of user-created “social” trails this year, which are not officially part of the city’s trail system.
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“It’s going to be a work in progress to ID different social trails – in this case it was multiple private landowners – but sometimes it’s a resource damage issue, other times it’s a repetitive trail with another trail that’s nearby,” Langsather said.
In 2013 one of the private landowners, noting concerns about liability, put up a fence around a 4-acre lot that effectively blocked the Ambrose Trail. The trail crossed private property at four different points, and the city did not have easements with the owners.
A portion of the trail roughly 3,200 feet long was moved farther up the mountain to avoid the private parcels. To maintain a similar grade, crews lengthened the trail by about 800 feet. The cost to the city at the time was about $6,000.
In 2013 the city also “decommissioned” the closed trail by placing wooden posts to block it and planting native grass seeds over the dirt path.
Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin