Open space 

Grant Creek blazes new trail

Bert Lindler is frightened to ride his bicycle along Grant Creek Road near his home in the Prospect Meadows neighborhood. Cars zip by quickly, he says, and on much of the thoroughfare there's not much of a shoulder.

"It's just too narrow for me to be comfortable," says Lindler, 64, who adds that many of his neighbors have felt the same way for a long time.

For these reasons, Grant Creek residents got together about 10 years ago and began working to create a new trail not far from the busy road. Since then, neighbors have donated right-of-way easements and cobbled together funds through the nonprofit Grant Creek Trails Association to make the trail become a reality.

The next hurdle comes on Jan. 14, when the Missoula City Council and the Missoula Board of County Commissioners vote on whether to spend $54,000 from Missoula's Open Space Bond, set aside by voters in 2006, to purchase a 27-acre parcel that's needed to build the trail.

A "yes" vote from local lawmakers will allow the city to purchase the acreage from the Northwest Wildlife Federation and enable construction of a trail that runs from near the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation up Grant Creek for more than two miles.

"The Grant Creek Trail is tying together neighborhoods in Grant Creek much the way sidewalks tie together homes in the city center," Lindler says.

If all goes as planned, the city will place a conservation easement on the property and grant it to Five Valleys Land Trust. The easement will ensure the property, which is home to elk, black bear, deer and a variety of avian life, is protected from development in perpetuity. Since the land serves as a bird refuge, with the exception of trail access, locals will not be allowed to recreate on it.

Missoula's Open Space Program Coordinator Jackie Corday hopes to start on trail construction next year. "It is exciting that it's finally coming together," she says.

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