The county commissioners voted unanimously Friday to adopt a new trails plan for Ravalli County.

The plan, developed by the Bitter Root Land Trust, is considered a vision statement for the county that outlines potential non-motorized connections between various points of interest.

"It's definitely more of a broad vision document," said Gavin Ricklefs, executive director of the Bitter Root Land Trust. "It identifies overall goals of a successful trails plan and the foundation we need to get there."

Some of these goals include building cohesive communities within Ravalli County, promoting health and fitness, protecting the rights of landowners as well as wildlife habitat, and to increase economic opportunities.

Ricklefs said it also identifies what areas different communities and schools would like to connect, thanks to a series of public meetings the land trust held.

The plan recognizes both transportation and recreational purposes of trails, "the building blocks that need to be there to have a thriving trails system," Ricklefs said.

John Conlan, a park board member and self-proclaimed "extreme cyclist," mentioned the safety value of having a trails plan at a commission meeting on Wednesday.

"There is a safety issue for people who want to use alternative means of transportation," he said, citing times he's been run into ditches by cars while running and biking.

"There are people, especially in Stevensville, who support this plan," Conlan said. "(The plan) is pretty basic and I think that it is workable."

Ricklefs said that when the Bitter Root Land Trust first undertook the project of creating a trails plan its members thought the result would be a more directive plan, "with lines on the map," he said.

But over three or four years, Ricklefs said they got a better understanding of what's available and collected many different perspectives to create the document the commissioners adopted.

Planning director John Lavey said it gives the county some options to study in more depth.

"My impression of this plan is it's very basic, bordering on vagueness, but rightly so," Lavey said.

Lavey called it a "scatter-gun approach" to trails, but said "it gives us some general guidance."

County commissioner Jim Rokosch said the importance of adopting such a plan is to help bring outside resources in for the implementation of trails in the future.

"It's really obvious that trails are going to be a huge deal in this valley," said county commissioner Kathleen Driscoll.

Reach reporter Whitney Bermes at 363-3300 or whitney.bermes@ravallirepublic.com.

 

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