FWP Recommends Local Organizations for Trail Stewardship Grants

More than $400,000 will go towards trail construction and maintenance in northwest Montana

By Micah Drew
The Swift Creek Trailhead north of Whitefish on March 17, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) has recommended that six northwest Montana nonprofits receive more than $400,000 in grant funding through the Trail Stewardship Program (TSP) for trail-focused projects in 2024. FWP also recommended Lincoln County receive more than $62,000 to develop a new trailhead at Kootenai Falls.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Gateway to Glacier Trail, Eureka Youth Sports League, Flathead Snowmobile Association, Swan Valley Connections and the Whitefish Legacy Partners are among 36 organizations statewide recommended to receive $2 million in grant funding through TSP grants, more than twice the award amount in 2023. Organizations are required to match 10% of the total project costs.

Gateway to Glacier Trails will receive $90,000 for the construction of the Cedar Ridge Trailhead and surrounding pullouts within the Cedar Flats Trail system. The Cedar Flats project features 25 planned miles of multi-use, non-motorized trails north of Columbia Falls and west of the North Fork Road. Currently, more than 10 miles of trails have been constructed and the additional trailhead will directly access the two-mile point-to-point Cedar Ridge trail completed last year.   

Montana Conservation Corps members build trail for the Crystal Cedar Flats project in Columbia Falls on May 4, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Over in Whitefish, the Whitefish Legacy Partners applied for a $60,000 grant to help with continued trail maintenance along the 47 miles of trail and 15 trailheads the nonprofit oversees surrounding Whitefish Lake and up Big Mountain.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation conducts stewardship projects during the summer with its conservation crew. Each year, conservation crew members and volunteers maintain around 500 miles of trails, including building trail structures and bridges, clearing thousands of trees, and treating tens of acres of weeds. More than 350 volunteers contribute their time to the Foundation, work that will continue in 2024 with the aid of a $42,000 MTSGP grant.

In Lincoln County, the Eureka Youth Sports League requested $98,470 to develop and pave a new trail around the Eureka Youth Sports Park. The walking and running path will be roughly 2/3 of a mile in length, surrounding the existing pickleball courts, soccer fields, roller hockey rink and playground.

The Flathead Valley Snowmobile Association is set to receive $74,720 for grooming and brushing operations along 200 miles across three local trail systems. The group maintains trails in the Canyon Creek area on the backside of Big Mountain over to Desert Mountain near Glacier National Park, the Lost Johnny area on the west side of Hungry Horse Reservoir and on Crane Mountain near Bigfork.

Swan Valley Connections will receive about $50,000 for ongoing trail maintenance projects along the Swan Front and in the Mission Mountain Wilderness Area.

Additionally, FWP recommended Lincoln County receive more than $62,000 to develop a new trailhead at Kootenai Falls.

The TSP was authorized by Senate Bill 24 during the 2019 Legislative Session and is funded through a portion of Montana’s light vehicle registration fee, as well as a portion of marijuana tax revenue. Eligible projects that can be funded through TSP include development and rehabilitation work on urban, rural, and backcountry trails; construction of community trails; and snowmobile and cross-country ski trail maintenance and grooming operations.

The 2024 TSP funds will be awarded following a public comment period. A complete list of the proposed grant recipients, along with supplemental environmental review documents, is available online at  https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/grant-programs/trail-stewardship. Comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. on April 3 and can be submitted online at https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/grant-programs/trail-stewardship/public-comment; in writing sent to P.O. Box 200701 Helena, MT 59620-0701; and by email to: [email protected].

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