Year after year, the Flathead Valley’s scenic trails garner millions of visitors, as locals and tourists alike set out to hike, bike, run, ride and walk. While outdoors groups across the area are eager to share the Flathead’s trails and paths, many are also working to prioritize responsible use. With new projects and expansions on the horizon, Flathead Trails Association (FTA) — a coalition of local outdoors enthusiasts committed to preserving and advancing trails — is making strides to increase cooperation and improve trail conservation throughout the Valley.
FTA has been around informally since 2017, meeting initially as a loose coalition of outdoors groups known as the PATHS2 Advisory Group to Flathead County’s Trails Plan. After PATHS2 advised Flathead County in updating the County Trails Plan, its members continued to gather, motivated by the possibility of developing the county’s trails even further.
“When the county meetings ended, the group kept meeting,” FTA Trail Coordinator Allie Maloney said. “People were so excited to be talking to each other and they were leaving these meetings with a lot of energy.”
This summer, FTA has channeled that energy into actionable steps forward, hiring Maloney as its first paid employee and announcing brand-new initiatives for the coming months.
“With the increased use of trails in the Flathead Valley, it’s more important than ever for the local trail organizations, agencies and vested individuals that make up the Flathead Trails Association to continue collaborating to provide vital resources and education while advocating for trails Valley-wide,” Amanda Minatra, FTA steering committee member and program coordinator with Gateway to Glacier Trails said in a press release. “Hiring Allie is an integral step in the right direction and we are thrilled to have her on board.”
Maloney is working to build infrastructure that will take FTA from an informal coalition to a major player in trail preservation and maintenance in the area. In the coming months, FTA, along with its fiscal sponsor Whitefish Legacy Partners and the Flathead National Forest, will offer a wide range of volunteer opportunities, educational programs and public awareness campaigns. Maloney says trail users can look forward to a new FTA website to help locals and visitors find trail information and opportunities for first aid, CPR, chainsaw and crosscut certification classes. On Oct. 2, the group will host a launch party to officially debut Flathead Trails Association to the public.
“In the past few years the Flathead Valley has seen an increase in trail use due to the availability of accessible and well maintained trails,” Marisa Mikonis of Discover Kalispell said. “FTA’s efforts will bring community members and associations together to further the development of connected year-round trail systems.”
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.