When construction of the Great American Rail-Trail is complete, it will connect the American coasts from Washington DC to Washington State, a distance of 3,700 miles.
It’s a huge work in progress with local residents pushing the needle to finalize the route in their area, taking bites from the elephant at an impressive pace. Mineral County is well on its way with various milestones of completion, including the Olympia Trail running from St. Regis to Haugan.
On October 28, Kevin Belanger, Rails-to-Conservancy Project Manager met with the Mineral County Rails-to-Trails group to tour the completed portion and discuss potential alternate routes for the trail through the county.
It follows the old Milwaukee Railroad grade as much as possible and finds ways to bypass sections of road that have been sold to individuals.
Belanger’s tour actually started in Frenchtown, where a piece of the Missoula County trail system was reviewed that would eventually connect with the trail in Mineral County. The group then progressed through Mineral County, following I-90 from Alberton to the Cyr exit to access the old US 10 that cyclists can currently take to Crystal Springs, but it’s then a return to the highway.
Diane Magone, Chair of the Mineral County Resource Committee Recreation Committee, was energized by the progress made and confident about the challenges they face, especially the key part being negotiated between Alberton and Tarkio.
“We are in discussions with Amy Helena (Missoula Department of Natural Resources Unit Manager) to obtain a land use permit allowing cyclists and hikers to continue onto a section of school trust land for use. future,” Magone said. the three extremely narrow I-90 overpasses should be avoided by non-motorized traffic. Once done, a route from Cyr to Superior would provide a much safer alternative for those visitors to our county. »
At noon, the group met with County Minerals Commissioners in an open meeting. Magone provided a brief explanation of the role of the Mineral County Rails-to-Trails organization, including accomplishments and the next phase of the recreation committee. Kevin Belanger presented the findings of an economic benefits study, commissioned by the Conservancy and prepared by Headwaters Economics, which specifically pertained to Mineral County, then answered all questions about the proposed trail project as well as the Conservancy. in general.
The afternoon portion included a stop at the proposed Route of the Olympian trailhead site to be built on the Forest Service compound adjacent to St. Regis Community Park. Followed by a canyon trip to Saltese where Brooke Lincoln with the Montana Nightriders Snowmobile Club discussed the Saltese Trestle project which will eventually be a necessary link piece on the Great American Rail-Trail.
Although much of the trail is unmotorized, Belanger has made it clear that it is up to local entities to allow multiple use where appropriate. The Olympian Route and the Saltese Easel are open to certain types of motorized vehicles and will remain so in the future, while the portion of the trail that passes through the DNRC section.