Public comment is being taken until June 13, 2021. The plan is ambitious and would tie in to the Great American Rail Trail plan.
Plan for trail network in Triangle area outside of Bozeman out for public review
By Helena Dore Chronicle Staff Writer May 27, 2021
A plan guiding future trail-building in the area between Bozeman, Four Corners and Belgrade is out for public comments until June 13, staff from a local land trust announced this week.
The Triangle Trails draft plan identifies routes where trails could connect to neighborhoods, schools, parks and commercial areas efficiently and safely. It also includes recommendations for trail amenities and design standards.
The triangle between the three towns is one of the fastest-growing areas in Gallatin County — one of the fastest-growing counties in the western United States, according to the draft plan. The area was once all agricultural, but it’s quickly turning residential.
While Belgrade and Bozeman have plans to make sure trail systems connect, there is no guiding document or requirement for constructing trails in the triangle. Individual neighborhoods often build their own trails, but those don’t connect to a larger system.
Chet Work, executive director of the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, said the trails plan won’t govern development or the exact routes of future trails. It will instead become a resource for developers as the area becomes more residential.
“The time to plan for trails in the Triangle Area is now, ahead of the rapid development we’ll see in the area,” Work said in a news release. “We’re proud of this collaborative effort with Gallatin County, City of Bozeman, City of Belgrade and the residents of this valley.”
Since last summer, a steering committee made up of Bozeman, Belgrade and Gallatin County officials and staff at Gallatin Valley Land Trust have discussed routes and best practices for developing trails in the Triangle. Consultants with Sanderson Stewart, a Bozeman engineering firm, helped design and develop the draft plan.
Project leaders hosted cycling tours and collected public input during an open house to learn more about where people would like to see trails, but opportunities to comment aren’t over.
People can submit comments on the plan online until June 13. They can also complete a short survey to let officials know whether they feel the plan’s direction adequately addresses safety, accessibility, connectivity and impacts on the environment and irrigation.
The final plan will likely be adopted this summer as Gallatin County and Belgrade update their growth policies, according to Gallatin Valley Land Trust. An updated Bozeman Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Trails Plan will reference the plan.
The trails plan should give developers a visual idea of where individual trails could connect to a larger system, but the lines drawn on a map included in the plan aren’t set in stone, Work said.
Triangle Trails Map
The proposed triangle trails map of existing and proposed trails in the area between Bozeman, Belgrade and Four Corners from the review draft of the Triangle Trails Plan by Gallatin County and the Gallatin Valley Land Trust.
Courtesy of Sanderson Stewart
“Developing the landscape without foresight is a mistake,” he said. “There is an economic incentive to connect trails.”
There are three trail types outlined in the plan and each has its own set of maintenance and design guidelines. Neighborhood trails will be added as subdivisions emerge. Connector trails will be added so people can access schools, parks and commercial areas. Commuter pathways will cross longer distances.
Project leaders wanted the plan to establish a vision for making routes safe and accessible for a variety of users. Identifying key trail corridors and making expectations clear and predictable for landowners, developers and homeowners are some goals listed in the plan.
“The existence of an adopted trail plan is critical to providing predictability and clarity to local developers and citizens,” Gallatin County Commissioner Scott MacFarlane said in a news release. “This document is something our community expects us to have and is responsible land use planning.”
Creating a trail network in the triangle opens opportunities for connection to an even larger trail system.
The Great American Rail Trail Project is an ongoing effort to establish a 3,700-mile multi-use trail that goes from Washington D.C. to the Washington coast. While many sections are incomplete, the proposed route runs straight through Gallatin County between Bozeman and Three Forks.
The Triangle Trails draft plan proposes developing a section of trail that connects with future segments of the Great American Rail Trail.
“Many communities across the West have embraced the future of abandoned rail lines,” Work said.