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Billings showcases trail system at annual parks convention

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Posted at 12:43 AM, Apr 24, 2024

The Montana Trails, Recreation & Parks Association (MTRPA) is meeting in Billings this week with members looking to pick up some good ideas.

Part of that group went on a tour of the Skyline Trail on Tuesday afternoon.

Much of the Billings Trail system is complete and there is an effort to raise money for the Stagecoach Trail, which would start at the top Zimmerman Trail at Highway 3.

“It's a critical trail because we don't have a way to get safely from Rimrock up to Highway 3,” said Kristi Drake, Billings Trailnet executive director.

Drake says the city of Billings will receive a $4.7 million grant if it can come up with $800,000 to match that grant.

“So Billings TrailNet has provided $100,000,” Drake said. “The city got another grant for $100,000. So now the city just has $600,000 that it needs to come up with in order to get this $5.5 million trail.”

That would go toward the Stagecoach Trail, the last major piece of a 26.2 mile Marathon Loop. Crews are finishing smaller projects in the loop.

Drake led a group of Montana Trails, Recreation and Parks Association members on a tour of the Skyline Trail, including stops at the Coulson Boot Hill Cemetery, and the Yellowstone Kelly interpretive site before ending in Zimmerman Park.

“Some of this interpretation along the trail adds phenomenal value,” said Mitch Overton, director of Parks & Recreation for the city of Bozeman. “There's educational value. There's a lot of us out there including myself that enjoy the signage for interpretation. So we stop and we read those. We get educated and we value these places more.”

“A lot of great spots to stop and appreciate the views,” said Morgan Squires, director of Fairgrounds & Parks for Park County. “There was some history incorporated. So I appreciated that and the history component is huge. And that's something that I'm going to take away to Park County and try to incorporate as we think about developing our trail systems.”

This year, the annual four-day conference provides a chance to showcase some of the highlights Billings has to offer.

"Rims and the river and obviously the stuff in between, which is all of our community and parks and facilities,” said Kory Thomson, recreation superintendent of the city of Billings Parks & Recreation Department. "Trails is a big topic across the state. Every community appreciates trails."

And if the stagecoach trail gets completed, the Marathon Loop will add to the parks and trails in Billings.

“There's just a great rich history here and the trails connect to all of those places,” Drake said.

Drake said if the money can be raised, it’s possible to start construction on Stagecoach Trail in the summer of 2025.