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Earlier this spring, the Ravalli County Parks Board voted to christen the U.S. Highway 93 pedestrian path as the Bitterroot Parkway.

What a great idea, responded members of the Bitter Root Cultural Heritage Trust. Why not expand it?

The heritage trust has already begun plans to create an identically-named parkway which would encompass not just pedestrian paths along U.S. Highway 93 but also many other roads and paths that would take visitors to historical and heritage sites.

"It's part of a larger package," society vice president Dave Schultz told the parks board on Wednesday. "This is an opportunity to leverage each other's resources. We want to know how to look at this as a larger entity than a bike path."

Society president Kris Komar told parks board members she envisioned a parkway which would link roads and trails through the valley leading to cultural and historical sites which would be detailed on a map or booklet and perhaps in interpretive roadside displays. The group is modeling its efforts on similar programs around the state and already has an under-construction Web page, parkway.brcht.org. The group also has received $15,000 to create a heritage guide.

Komar said the guide would lead travelers not only to sites of interest but also unique lodgings, art showcases and more. With the incorporation of both roads and trails, visitors of all ages and abilities could appreciate the valley in the way they wanted. Besides the guide, she would also like to focus on community gateways and signage.

The linear park, she said, could include Eastside Highway as well and form several loops.

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"The idea we want to show is that the Bitterroot Parkway is a wonderful way to explore the place," she said.

While rights-of-way for a pedestrian path exists along much of Eastside, said board chairman Gary Leese, Eastside right now is becoming more difficult for bikers.

"Eastside is a getting to be a rough place to ride," he said.

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That's why locals need to closely follow state road plans, said Commission Jim Rokosch, to ensure pedestrian pathways.

"We have got a long way to go," he said, "and frankly it will be an uphill battle."

Reach reporter Jeff Schmerker at 363-3300 or at jeff.schmerker@ravallirepublic.com.

 

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