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Gallatin County Commission Approves Funding of $100k for Headwaters Trail System

There was some phenomenal news last week for the Headwaters Trail System.

At their regular meeting last week, the Gallatin County Commission approved using $100,00 in Open Lands Program Money for the trail system. The funding will be used as part of a $182,500 maintenance project slated to begin in September or October.

The maintenance project will crack seal, repair root and rodent damage to the asphalt trail surface, and seal coat trail. According to the trail system's application to the Open Lands Program, the project will repair the trail from the Madison River Bridge to the Missouri Headwaters State Park and the lower Madison Road and continue east to where the trail terminates. The project will also include the trail from the Drouillard Fishing Access Site to Kansas Street in Three Forks. Another half section that connects Three Forks ball fields on Magris Talc will also be included.

$75,000 of the project's cost will be funded through the MT Trail Stewardship Grant Program, and $7,500 will come from the Headwaters Trail System.

The project will be put out to bid in August.

The Commission also voted to approve the use of Open Lands Program money in five other county projects for $458,223.

The other funding includes $100,00 to the Gallatin Valley Land Trust for an East-West Connector Trail, $100,000 to the Yellowstone Shortline Trial for the construction of a nine-mile trail in the West Yellowstone Area, and $100,00 to the Big Sky Owners Association for the Little Coyote Pond and West Fork Restoration. Eagle Mount was awarded $38,938 for land acquisition for future programming, infrastructure, community recreation, and public access to Gallagator Trail. The Craighead Institute was awarded $19,295 for wildlife habitat and water quality improvements at Gallatin County Regional Park.

"I'm really impressed with all of the applications," said Gallatin County Commissioner Jennifer Boyer. "All of these projects are well designed, community-minded, and have incredible support from a variety of partners and agencies."

Money for these projects comes from the voter-approved Gallatin County Open Space Levy, which was passed in 2018. This year, the levy is estimated to bring in over $2.44 million total.

While a majority of that money funds conservation projects, such as conservation easements for private landowners, over $458,000 was earmarked by the Gallatin County Commission for "other eligible projects." These projects must be related to land acquisition, capital improvements, and maintenance projects that support the purpose of the Open Space Levy.

Eleven applications were received during the application period earlier this year. The Open Lands Board scored the submitted proposals and recommended these six projects for approval.

Commissioner Zach Brown said these "other eligible projects" are a great addition to the Open Lands Program that go beyond traditional conservation easements to help support "all kinds of recreational, open space, and water quality type efforts that benefit our constituents."

"It's meaningful to spread the love to different corners of the county," Brown said.