Montana State Parks Foundation funds five projects for 2018News Type: State Source: Helena Independent Record
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The Montana State Parks Foundation (MSPF) announces its official partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to fund five projects at Montana State Parks in 2018. The hand-selected projects focus on Makoshika, Sluice Boxes, Milltown, and Lone Pine state parks as well as statewide school field trip assistance.
“We are pleased to announce these new projects as part of our ongoing partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. We believe the best way to help Montana’s state parks is to begin with direct improvements that all Montanans can enjoy and experience,” said Coby Gierke, executive director of the Montana State Parks Foundation.
With a 2016 operating budget of just $8.7 million, Montana spends less on its state parks than any other state in the Western U.S., while visitation at Montana State Parks reached an all-time high of 2.65 million visits in 2016. This growth rate is expected to see a 39 percent increase in visitors over a ten-year period. With shrinking parks budgets, increasing maintenance costs and backlogs, and ever-increasing park visitation, MSPF decided to begin funding “Park Partnership Projects” to protect park resources and enhance the visitor experience at state parks.
Spread across Montana, the five projects will address a variety of priority needs such as trail work and other user amenities in state parks with a focus on creating better experiences for park visitors while protecting and preserving Montana’s cultural and natural resources.
MSPF is actively seeking donations to help fund these projects. More information is available at www.montanastateparksfoundation.org.
Makoshika State Park, Diane Gabriel Trail Reconstruction
Named for the late Diane Gabriel, a paleontologist from the Museum of the Rockies who did extensive dinosaur research at Makoshika State Park, the 1.5-mile loop trail introduces visitors to the larger features of the badlands landscape, such as the sod tabletops and sinkhole caves that form in the hillsides from erosion. The current condition of the trail requires improved conditions for continued safety and access. This project includes a bridge but also trail expansion into a larger part of the park.
Sluice Boxes State Park, Overlook Trail Improvements
The Sluice Boxes State Park is located in central Montana on Belt Creek. The current trail to the Sluice Boxes State Park overlook is in disrepair and dangerous for many users. To improve access and natural resource protection, MSPF will fund the construction bridge over the natural spring area and develop a sustainable trail solution to negotiate the cliff area.
Milltown State Park, Confluence Area Development
Milltown State Park is located at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers in Bonner near Missoula. Once a crossroads for Native American tribes traveling to bison hunting grounds, for decades a reservoir and sawmill, and a lingering superfund clean up, Milltown State Park is now one of the newer additions to the Montana state park ecosystem.
The conversion from Superfund clean-up to state park is underway, but much of the park has yet to be developed. MSPF will fund landscaping and visitor use improvements which will increase park access and enjoyment for all visitors.
Lone Pine State Park, Park Information Project
Lone Pine State Park boasts over seven and a half miles of multi-use trails just outside of Kalispell. Visitors from all over the world converge with Montana locals in the popular Flathead Valley just west of Glacier National Park, and every year, that visitation grows.
More information about the trails, overlooks, and natural wonders of Lone Pine State Park is needed. MSPF will fund trailhead kiosks and informational signage to support the ongoing visitation growth and promote responsible use and resource protection by park visitors.
MSPF will follow the model of the National Park Service’s Every Kid in a Park program, by providing funding for school field trips to Montana State Parks for public school students across the state. Ongoing budget cuts have made it difficult for many schools and teachers to fund field trips that help contextualize historical and environmental curriculum. Through this project, MSPF hopes to not only ensure that opportunity for classrooms across the state but to also inspire a new generation of state parks enthusiasts and conservationists.