Bigfork-Harrell Forest Community Trails and Conservation Project

Published on October 4, 2021 under News
Bigfork-Harrell Forest Community Trails and Conservation Project

March 1, 2022Project Update: Flathead Land Trust, along with project partners The Trust for Public Land, Montana Land Reliance, and Montana Access Project have been working together to create over four miles of new community trails and permanently protect 236 acres of forestland in Bigfork’s backyard.

The trail system and associated trailhead are currently in the design phase and we hope to have a final design by this spring. An advisory committee that includes stakeholders and Bigfork community members will create a management plan for the property that ensures safety and sustainability remain at the forefront of the overall recreational amenity. The committee and project partners will work together to disseminate a draft of the management plan for public to review and to solicit comments. In addition, project partners are currently working towards protection of the entire property through a conservation easement which will be held by Montana Land Reliance. The easement will protect the land permanently from future residential development while retaining its open space for recreation and outdoor educational uses.

This winter, FLT and project partners are applying for grant funding for the project. If awarded, they would partially fund the trail and trailhead construction with a proposed date to break ground by this fall. In addition, we will be asking for donations from the community starting in late spring which will include a public kick off event and tours. Your support will help make it all possible and will be a great way learn more about the project and the substantial community benefits it will bring to Bigfork and the Flathead Valley. Finally, we are anticipating that the new trail system will be completed and open to the public by early summer, 2023.

The overall goal of this project is to create a recreation asset that residents and visitors can enjoy and be proud of, while also protecting the land for community benefit. While The Trust for Public Land is currently the property owner, long-term ownership and management will transfer to Flathead Land Trust at end of this year. We could not be more excited to serve our community by providing new front-country recreation right next to Bigfork and we are committed to ensuring and sustaining its long-term conservation and recreational benefits for many years to come.

Get Outdoors Bigfork: In addition to the Bigfork-Harrell Forest project, partners are working together to support economic vitality, health and wellness, and quality of life for residents and visitors through the development of a Bigfork Area Outdoor Recreation Plan. The project will inventory existing and potential recreation destination/connections in Bigfork, vicinity, and N. Flathead Lake region, recommend goals and objectives for sustainable recreation use. Find out more about Get Outdoors Bigfork on the Montana Access Project website HERE>>

September 9th, 2021 – We are so excited to announce that Flathead Land Trust is working with The Trust for Public Land and Montana Land Reliance on a partnership to create over four miles of new community trails and permanently protect 236 acres of forestland in Bigfork’s backyard.

Located on the flanks of Swan Hill just a short distance from downtown, the protected land, once slated for development of 17 new residential lots, will offer unfettered views of Flathead Lake and the Swan Mountain Range, while providing public access to extraordinary front county recreational opportunities for the community of Bigfork, and offering protection and landscape connectivity for wildlife species such as whitetail deer, turkeys, and black bear.

“This new community asset will not only provide residents with additional outdoor opportunities close to home, but it will also allow for continued forest health management to reduce the risk of wildfire threats which have become so prevalent in our region,” said Lucas Cain, Project Manager with The Trust for Public Land. “The Trust for Public Land is proud to be part of this incredible opportunity of safeguarding access to the outdoors for both current and future generations of Montanans.”

The new trail system, though not officially open to the public until the project is complete, will complement existing trails such as Swan River Trail that have become increasingly crowded due to an uptick in usage during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Project planning and community involvement will take place over the coming months, with groundbreaking sometime late next year and eventual opening to the public in 2023.

“Flathead Land Trust is proud to be partnering on this exciting project which will serve the community of Bigfork and the Flathead Valley with a recreational amenity right next to town and conserve an important piece of open space for future generations to enjoy.  We look forward to engaging with the community as we work towards providing much needed front country recreation on this property that otherwise could have been lost to subdivision and  development”, said Paul Travis, Executive Director for Flathead Land Trust.

While The Trust for Public Land is currently the property owner, long-term ownership and management will transfer to the Flathead Land Trust, with the conservation easement holder being the Montana Land Reliance. The project partners would like to thank the Alan and Cindy Horn Family for their generosity and vision in making this community project possible.

For more information about this exciting project, contact Paul Travis at [email protected] or 406-752-8293.