Hustling to Preserve a Trail Corridor

By Beacon Staff

Five miles might sound like a long run or walk, but for a pint glass and the chance to support an ambitious trail preservation effort, Danielle Coffman thinks people will be up for the challenge.

On the morning of June 21, an assortment of eager runners and hikers will gather to participate in the first Herron Hustle, a race aimed at raising money and awareness for the Foys to Blacktail Trails (FTBT) project. Participants will get a FTBT pint glass, but more importantly, Coffman said, they will get a chance to see what the FTBT project is all about.

“Hopefully it will bring more attention to the Foys to Blacktail cause and that we could lose access to that land,” Coffman, one of the race’s directors, said.

The FTBT project is guided by a group of local residents who wish to connect and preserve a network of single-track trails and logging roads that cut across public and private land between Herron Park and Blacktail Mountain Ski Area. Project members have been working with a variety of groups, negotiating easements, connector trails and land purchases, FTBT treasurer Liz Seabaugh said. Among the groups are the Plum Creek Timber Company, Flathead County and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, she said.

The final trail, which has not yet been fully set, Seabaugh said, will run between 15 and 20 miles and will be used for walking, running, mountain biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. She calls it a “multi-community” and “multi-agency” project.

“Things are moving along very quickly,” Seabaugh said.

The route for the June 21 race will be marked off with FTBT signs. It will start at the Herron Park parking lot, meander through the park’s timberland for a distance of what Coffman said is actually closer to five-and-a-half miles, and then finish back at the parking lot.

Registration is $15 per person if paid before June 14 and $20 after that date. All profits go to FTBT. Participants, who can choose to walk or run, are asked to show up at 6:30 a.m. at Herron Park’s parking lot. The race officially begins at 8 a.m.

Coffman said she originally came up with the Herron Hustle idea simply because she thought the valley needed another trail race. It wasn’t until she started scouting out locations and got in contact with people from Foys to Blacktail that she dedicated the race to preserving the trail corridor. She is now FTBT’s vice chairman.

Both Coffman and Seabaugh said that while the money raised by the Herron Hustle will be valuable to their cause, perhaps more important is the exposure the race brings to FTBT. Seabaugh said that people who experience the trail, with its far-reaching views of the Flathead Valley, find it hard not to support the project.

“Once people get up there they get as hooked on it as we do,” Seabaugh said. “It’s just a dynamite project with so many advantages for the community and recreation and everybody.”

Coffman hopes the race is just the first of many to come.

“Hopefully it will develop into an annual fun race,” she said.

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