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‘Meaningful connection:’ Gallatin County approves triangle trail plan | BDC

We’re so looking forward to more connectivity north south east and west on our trail systems.

‘Meaningful connection:’ Gallatin County approves triangle trail plan By Alex Miller Bozeman Daily Chronicle Staff Writer Nov 23, 2021

The future of trails in Gallatin County got a lot more connected Tuesday after the county commission adopted the Triangle Trails Plan.

The Triangle Trails Plan would provide guidelines for reviewing developments and how commuter, neighborhood and connector trails could be implemented by proposed developments. The plan is now a part of the Gallatin County Growth Policy.

Adopting the plan gives cities surrounding the Triangle Area — between Bozeman, Belgrade and Four Corners — regulatory power to determine how trails are built, and how to connect preexisting trails to new ones.A pair of county development rules — one for subdivisions and the other for transportation — provide the legal authority for trail development, according to the Triangle Trails Plan.“I’m excited to have this on our shelf as a thing that is helping to inform us on our decision making,” said Gallatin County Commissioner Scott MacFarlane after the plan was adopted.There are about 60 miles of existing trails in the Triangle Area, said Garrett McAllister, a senior planner for the Gallatin County Planning Department. He said that the plan would act as a guide that would help to determine the look and connectivity of trails in the years to come.

Developing and implementing the plan would be focused on large subdivision developments, and the county’s review process of those proposals, he said. The bigger the subdivision, the more robust trails could be.Smaller subdivisions, like a two-lot minor subdivision, would need to have a “rational nexus,” meaning that if a smaller development was asked to include trails, the ask would have to be proportionate to the scale of the development.

“Right now that’s the only regulatory tool we have,” McAllister said.“I think we will probably take a look at our zoning rights as well to see where we can leverage the trails plan and try to get some of these connections built by zoning regulations, but subdivision reviews are our main mechanism.”

In the past, there was no plan to guide the development of trails, and as a result many existing trails were built in a haphazard, disconnected way, McAllister said.

One of the keys to the trails plan is creating a network, interconnecting trails throughout the Triangle Area and providing a waypoint system similar to signs and mile markers along roads. McAllister referred to this interconnectivity as a form of “meaningful connection,” which would help people figure out which trail in the system would be best for them.

Mark Kehke was the chair of the Triangle Trails Plan steering committee and helped create what ultimately became the final plan unanimously adopted by the county commission on Tuesday. A request for a set of guidelines appeared in the Triangle Community Plan, which was adopted in 2020 to address growth in Bozeman, Belgrade and Four Corners.

He said that the Triangle Community Plan didn’t have the bandwidth or the resources to accommodate the trails plan, but the idea was to pick where the community plan left off.

Without a master plan for trails, many would end up isolated, forming little islands disconnected from one another, Kehke said. But now, the new plan offers a robust, hierarchical approach to trail building, he said.“I think it is critical for those of us who run, walk, bike, walk dogs, push strollers — all of the different ways that trails get used — having a system that’s in place that is a thoughtful network so that everything connects so you don’t have trails to nowhere, I think is critically important long term to the health and safety of the community,” Kehke said.

Source: ‘Meaningful connection:’ Gallatin County approves triangle trail plan | County |