Gallatin Valley Land Trust connects people, communities, and open lands through conservation of working farms and ranches, healthy rivers, and wildlife habitat, and the creation of trails in the Montana headwaters of the Missouri and Upper Yellowstone Rivers.
Who They Are and What They Do
It’s a breath of fresh air, the crisp scent of soil and water and sunshine. It’s the outline of the mountains against glowing clouds and a brilliant pink sunrise. It’s dogs bounding and people smiling. It’s what Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) works so hard to protect, extend, and maintain. Founded in 1990 by Chris Boyd, it is a non-profit organization that has made the trails and parks in our community what they are today. Beginning with the purchase of the land for Burke Park, also known as Peets Hill, Boyd sought to steward the quality of life in our area through private land conservation and community trails. Today, there are more than 80 miles in the Main Street to the Mountains trail system thanks to GVLT.
In order to build trails and establish connections that facilitate the purpose of the Main Street to the Mountains system, GVLT works with a variety of people and organizations. City, county, and federal operations are all involved, as are the homeowner’s association on occasion, the forest service, and private landowners. Through these partnerships, GVLT has been able to extend the trail system and conserve more than 67 square miles of land in the Valley.
Trail Building with BACF
Recently, the opportunity for a new project surfaced in the area of the Highland Glen Nature Preserve. Although it would be a very small extension of the current trail system there, it would have a huge impact. The idea came from a staff member at the Gallatin Mental Health Center across from Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital. They noticed that simply connecting the current Highland Glen trail to the mental health center would facilitate increased outdoor recreation opportunities for residents. Currently, the trail bypasses the health center which sits just out of reach, across private land. To be able to access the trails, those at GMHC have to take a cumbersome route along busy roads, navigating partial sidewalk systems until reaching an access point. For this reason, they suggested implementing a spur trail that would connect GMHC with the rest of the Highland Glen trails.
As proponents of the many health benefits of the outdoors – physical, psychological, and emotional – GVLT was very excited to put a plan into action. Not only would a spur trail provide access for staff and residents at GMHC, but it would also help connect local neighborhoods. Across the road from the health center, these neighborhoods are right next door to an incredible view of the Bridgers and wide open spaces. Yet they don’t have an easy mode of access to the trails and are limited to driving or walking on dangerous roads to get there. GVLT hopes to change this. With funding they received from the Bozeman Area Community Foundation, they will be working to build a spur trail in order to provide a much-needed access point to the Highland Glen Nature Preserve that will benefit residents at GMHC and those in nearby neighborhoods.
Other exciting projects GVLT has in store include extending the Triple Tree trail to where it picks up again in the Painted Hills, thereby connecting trails in the Gallatin Mountains to those in town. By completing the final piece in the Main Street to the Mountains system, they will be realizing the dream of founder Chris Boyd. Eventually, GVLT will also be connecting the Gallagator Trail to the trail system on the northeast side of town which runs through the future Story Mill Park. Once that has been completed, there will be trails that run from Triple Tree all the way to the ‘M’ Trail in the Bridger range, an astonishing connection of trail systems spanning a large portion of the Gallatin Valley.
As the snow begins to melt and spring takes root, there are many things we anticipate. Summer walks with friends, frisbee in the park, reading a book under a tree. Next time you admire the beauty of the Bridgers from a trail or have an impromptu photoshoot on Peets Hill, remember the work that has gone behind making it possible.
It’s that breath of fresh air, that dazzling view, that smile from a stranger. It’s what gives us life.
There are all kinds of ways you can connect with GVLT, whether volunteering for a project, participating in a fundraiser, or just staying in the know! Visit their website at https://gvlt.org to learn more!