This newly installed sign on the popular Mountain to Meadow bike trail seems to be working. It’s there to remind users to stay on designated trails and off private land. As the trail, and others like it in Big Sky, get used more frequently, the BSCO wants to remind bikers the trail would not be in place without the permission of private landowners—so it’s a respect it or lose it situation. On a busy day, more than 100 bikers have been counted on the trail.

Parks and rec, Big Sky style

Fundraising, parking issues, new trail potential covered at BSCO board meeting

Following a fully funded resort tax application, the July 4 road run and annual gala, the Big Sky Community Organization’s board of directors met July 19 to go over old and new business, including the possibility of a bike pump track at Community Park. 

Here are highlights from the recent discussion. 

FUNdraising  

     The BSCO’s annual Parks and Trails Gala held at the Community Park on July 6 brought in $209,664, “Which is significantly more than we have raised in the past,” BSCO Executive Director Ciara Wolfe told the board. Expenses for the night of dinner, drinks and music were around $45,000, “So the net on that is pretty significant.”  

     At the event, nearly $49,000 was raised during a nine-item live auction. A call for cash brought in a whopping $86,250, and a silent auction with 30 or so items gathered just under $14,000 for the BSCO. During the live auction, a chair from the recently taken down Shedhorn Chairlift at Big Sky Resort went for $10,500.   

     Two days earlier on July 4, 211 racers came out for the BSCO’s annual—yet slightly modified—Fourth of July run. It raised more than $9,300. T-shirts ran out quickly, since last year only 75 participated, so only 100 t-shirts were ordered this time around.   

     Good weather, plenty of tourists in town and a re-envisioned event may have led to the run’s triple digit success. While plenty of locals entered, Wolfe said she saw a large number of vacationing families join in the holiday race.   

     In years past, the event included a BBQ lunch following the race. But this year a breakfast was provided, which Wolfe noted was much less work and less expensive. Another change this year was dubbing the fundraiser a road race and walk, which significantly upped the number of young kids, walkers and strollers that participated.  

     “We cut back what we did, and I think we did it better than ever,” said Wolfe.  

Ongoing projects 

     Adam Johnson, BSCO’s “arm of parks and trails” said he’s been pleased with the progress being made by Stahly Engineering, the company chosen to design the new Beehive Basin Trailhead and parking area. The company is currently up at Beehive doing geotech and topographical surveys and should be providing a design by mid-August. Johnson said the hope is to break ground in the fall, but if snow comes early, excavation would commence in the spring. Once the new parking lot is done, public restrooms will be built.   

     Beehive Basin is frequented year-round. The BSCO counted just over 7,500 users between Dec. 16, 2017 and June 24, 2018, with 1,500 of those hiking the basin in the first three weeks of June alone.  

     And then there’s Ousel Falls, arguably the most popular trail in Big Sky, which is also in dire need of a parking update as more users—some coming in packed tour buses—head to the trail. Lone Mountain Land Company offered to do the design for the parking lot, which happens to partially reside on LMLC’s Spanish Peaks Mountain Club property.   

     A timeline has not been set for the Ousel upgrade, as Beehive is the BSCO’s current priority, but Johnson hopes to have things underway in the spring of 2019. The goal of the project is to create a second entrance to Ousel Falls Park, allowing people to ride a bus from the Town Center, with the option of hiking back to the Town Center via Ralph’s Pass and Uplands Trail. 

Private property 

     The newly installed sign reminding those on the Mountain to Meadow trail to stay off private property—along with beefed up jack rail fencing—seems to be doing the trick. Johnson said he’s still in talks with a landowner about getting the trail through the Middle Fork area.   

     It used to be that one of the challenges in getting landowners to agree to trail easements was the BSCO only had estimates about trail usage. With the recent addition of a trail camera, Johnson said he’ll be able to provide more concrete numbers. 

     “Even with lift-served trails open, we’ve been seeing a lot of people on the trail,” Johnson said. “150 bikers on big days.”  

Future plans: bike track, more trails 

     Avid mountain biker and Big Sky resident Joe Muggli met with the BSCO parks and trails committees in mid-June with his proposal for a mountain bike pump track in Community Park.   

     For those non-bikers out there, a pump track is a small, looping trail system that can be ridden continuously without pedaling. It’s created by berms and rolling terrain features formed in the dirt. Speed along the pump track is dependent on your ability to gain momentum by “pumping” the tight terrain transitions of the track.   

     The track would be located on less than a tenth of an acre directly behind the skate park—an area of Community Park with no current usage plans. When the pedestrian bridge over the West Fork is installed via the TIGER grant, Wolfe said the current playground will need to be relocated, and could potentially go where the pump track would reside. But since the track is just dirt and easily dismantled, the board saw no issues with the location.  

     With interested parties offering up dirt and the machinery to make the track, and volunteers offering to build and maintain the track—plus Terraflow helping with design and implementation free of charge—the only foreseeable expense would be $2,500 per year for insurance.  

     Seeing no downside, the board unanimously approved the BSCO to move forward with the concept. Muggli and other proponents of the track hope to start work this fall.

     “But we want to make sure we do it the right way,” Wolfe said. “So worst-case we might start it in the spring.”  

     The park is not spared from the challenges of overflowing parking lots, and one board member wondered if additional parking was in the works there as well. It isn’t, but BSCO Board Member Tallie Lancey was hopeful that once the pedestrian bridge and trail connecting the park to the rest of the trail system is installed, more users will opt to walk or bike to the park.  

A top five trail 

     Several years ago when the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club built Fish Camp Trail, there was a plan to add a spur trail that would connect it to Ousel Falls and Yellow Mule trails. That hasn’t happened yet, but the BSCO’s Johnson and Lone Mountain Land Company’s Executive Director of Community Associations Ben Holst have been brainstorming ways to make it happen and thereby create a public loop. 

      The major hurdle is the need for a bridge across the South Fork of the Middle Fork. As it would happen, Spanish Peaks has pieces of ski area bridges and tunnels that would work to fashion a bridge.   

     The next hurdle is the need for a helicopter to move the bridge parts. Circumstances are again in the project’s favor—Big Sky Resort has offered to allow the BSCO to use the chopper working to install the new Ramcharger 8-seater on Andesite. Johnson said it’d take about a half hour to an hour to move the pieces, costing about $1,500 to $3,000.  

     The BSCO is also talking with an engineer about design permitting and abutments for the bridge.   

     The Fish Camp Trail connection was identified, based on community survey feedback, as a top-five connection in the BSCO Master Trails Plan created last summer. 

     “This would be creating another trail for the community,” said Johnson. “It would be great to keep the continuation of adding a new trail every year.”  

     Fish Camp, a secluded outdoor venue that can be booked by Spanish Peaks members, would remain private.

 

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