By Sarah Gianelli EBS Associate Editor

BIG SKY – The Big Sky Community Organization will present an initial draft of the Master Trails Plan for public review at the Fall Fest in Big Sky Community Park on Saturday, Oct. 14. Consultants from Alta Planning + Design, who drew up the plan, will be on hand with maps, surveys and to speak with the community about their summer and winter trail desires.

The purpose of the plan is to guide the future development and improvement of Big Sky’s trail system.

“This will help our organization prioritize trail development from this point forward in a strategic, thoughtful approach,” said Ciara Wolfe, executive director of Big Sky Community Organization. Wolfe said the document will be used to identify priority trail projects, the necessary easements for those projects, and be used to support funding requests moving forward.

Wolfe stressed that there is still room for adjustments based on comments and feedback from the public.

The plan’s number one goal is continuing to improve and expand multi-use, multi-season trails that further connect the Big Sky community, and existing parks and trails. Within that primary intention falls the ability to maintain trail quality, grow Big Sky as a tourism destination, uphold a proactive relationship with developers and the community, maximize public access to trails, and acknowledge Big Sky’s trail system as an invaluable aspect of its infrastructure.

As it stands, Big Sky has 211 existing trails within the study area. According to an online public survey and interactive map that was open July through September, and data gathered at community events and area trailheads, 90 percent of Big Sky residents would like to see more trails, specifically additional trailheads in Town Center and Meadow Village, safe passageways across busy thoroughfares, and improvements to Custer Gallatin National Forest trailheads. A list of 27 specific projects were proposed by the public.

The plan recommends that Big Sky develops a trail system that can accommodate all ages and abilities, from the daily commuter and recreationist, to those looking for epic all-day or multi-day adventures.

Because the Big Sky area is split across both Madison and Gallatin counties, there can be challenges to managing recreational amenities uniformly across the divide.

BSCO’s Master Parks Plan—ultimately the same as the trails plan but with a focus on open, public spaces—was formally adopted as a reference in the Madison County Growth Policy 2012 on Oct. 11, but there is a longer process on the Gallatin County side. Big Sky Trails, Recreation and Parks District and BSCO are working together to develop an annual work plan for the district that will address many of the recommendations in the plan over the next three to five years. The final copy of this plan will be available on the BSCO website in coming weeks.

The public comment period for the draft of the Master Trails Plan will be open through October with the goal of gathering winter-specific trails and pathways feedback to include in the plan.

Visit bscomt.org for more information.