The Scratchgravel Hills Recreation Area Management Plan has been completed for the 5,500-acre area near Helena, which is popular with hikers, cyclists, trail runners, disc golfers and horseback riders, federal officials said.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Butte Field Office said earlier this month that the Special Recreation Management Area (SMRA) plan includes provisions for certain non-motorized recreational activities; enhances recovery experiences and benefits; reduces user conflicts; identifies specific trail usage zones; improves signage and visitor information; and offers sustainable options for further use of the existing hiking trails.
Butte BLM Field Manager Lindsey Babcock said in an email that the plan for scratchgravel in the West Helena Valley includes building a new 35-mile trail system open to hiking, trail running, traditional mountain biking, disc golf and equestrianism.
“In response to public comments, we considered the different ways people enjoy this area and refined our trail design and layout to ensure different types of recreation seekers can share these trails and have a quality experience,” said she.
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The plan, signed on March 9, can be appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals, Office of the Secretary, within 30 days of the decision. Notice must be filed at the Office of the Authorized Officer: Lindsey Babcock, BLM, Butte Field Office, 106 N. Parkmont, Butte, MT 59701.
Courtesy Bureau of Land Management
The plan states that 27 miles of existing travel routes would be available for non-mechanized use and 35 miles of new travel routes would be created, available for both non-mechanized and mechanized use; Mechanized use must remain on the path system.
The plan also includes expanding and improving four of the five starting points (Echo, John G. Mine, Norris, and Tumbleweed). Overnight camping would be prohibited at each of the five trailheads, except for overnight parking related to backcountry use, which would be permitted.
It calls for the development of the Tumbleweed disc golf course and the Norris disc golf course. And it says there should be an increased law enforcement presence where time and resources permit.
All dogs must be leashed at least 100 meters from each of the five trailheads and dogs not under apparent verbal control must be leashed at all times within the SRMA. The plan also says it will work with local partners to develop a dog waste bag program.
The plan says it will work with local partners and Lewis and Clark County to develop long-term public access roadway access and maintenance solutions to the SRMA that will be mutually beneficial to homeowners and public land users (e.g., the Federal Lands Access Program). are.
The new system would couple with the approximately 40 miles of existing trails that were either old access roads or created over time by recreational seekers. Construction of the trail system will be completed in phases as partnerships and/or funding become available.
The BLM chose Alternative C, which doesn’t allow e-bikes on the trails, saying the “trail system would not be designed for thrill-seekers or those seeking high-speed recreational experiences.”
The Bureau of Land Management recently announced the completion of the Scratchgravel Hills Recreation Area Management Plan.
THOM BRIDGE, Independent Record
It also pointed out that there was potential for increasing conflict with the “high speeds that can be achieved with e-bikes, particularly uphill”. And the BLM noted that there are e-bike opportunities in the nearby Clancy and North Hills areas.
Prickly Pear Land Trust, Helena Trails Alliance, the Montana Bicycle Guild, Helena Hikes, and representatives from various equestrian and landowner groups were part of a committee that contributed to the plan. Nate Kopp, program and trail director for the Prickly Pear Land Trust, said the committee recommended not allowing e-bikes.
He said compromises had been made.
“Not everyone was happy with it, but in the long run it will be a boon to the community,” he said.
“Overall, it looks like an exciting opportunity for the community,” Kopp said, adding that it’s exciting to see BLM make the final decision.
“It should meet the needs of the community,” he said, adding that the Scratchgravel Hills is under a lot of recreational pressure to have more quality trails.
According to Kopp, scratchgravel is very popular and has had more visitors as people have been looking for safe places to recreate themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the trails and parking lots are full.
“It just took off,” he said.
He added that more and more people are moving to Helena because of the outdoor recreational facilities that the area offers. He said “we’re a bit behind” in terms of infrastructure to meet those needs.
The plan includes a total of 62 miles of trails – 27 miles of existing non-mechanized use trails and 35 miles of new multi-use trails.
The Head Lane Trailhead of the Scratchgravel Hills Recreation Area.
THOM BRIDGE, Independent Record
He said there was no BLM funding for maintenance, which presented a “significant challenge” in terms of bathrooms and improvements to the trailhead and roads.
Kopp said it underscores the need for the entire Helena region to consider funding alternatives.
For more information on the plan, visit: https://go.usa.gov/xtpPj.
Associate Editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.
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