By David Tucker, Explorebigsky.com Contributor
BOZEMAN – For many outdoor enthusiasts, Bozeman is paradise. That sense may soon grow if a bond proposed by Commissioner Chris Mehl passes the Bozeman City Commission.
On June 18, the Commission heard testimony from Commissioner Mehl and dozens of citizens favoring a general obligation bond paid for by Bozeman property owners. The bond would use a yearly tax ranging between $30 and $45 over the next twenty 20 years.
The public’s overwhelming support of the measure speaks to the region’s commitment to preservation and its legacy of outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship, a commitment that, for many, defines the Gallatin Valley and characterizes its citizens.
Over the years, many local nonprofits have partnered with private landowners, businesses and government organizations in the greater Bozeman area to ensure that places for outdoor recreation are preserved and expanded.
In one recent example, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust held the Longest Day of Trails event on June 22, a membership drive aimed at raising awareness for the organization’s mission of maintaining and expanding the Main Street to the Mountains trail system in and around Bozeman.
Earlier in June, on National Trails Day, the Bridger Ski Foundation partnered with the U.S. Forest Service, Wilderness Recreation Partners, the Dirt Concern, and citizen volunteers to improve the Hyalite Reservoir ski trails for summer recreation, another example of how broad diverse partnerships are creating excellent outdoor opportunities.
In Big Sky, the nonprofit Big Sky Community Corp. also took advantage of National Trails Day to focus on trail upkeep. Twenty-six volunteers came out to work on the Black Diamond/Little Willow Way trail, Kircher park, and Ousel Falls, adding rock, filling in a slumping hillside, and fixing the transition on and off the bridge at Kircher Park.
BSCC’s mission—to unite and build the community through parks, trails and open spaces—has received strong and consistent support from individuals and businesses in the Big Sky community and also from the Big Sky Resort Tax Board. More recently, regional entities like the Bozeman REI and GVLT have also shown a growing interest in working with this community-oriented nonprofit.
At the July 16 Bozeman City Commission meeting, the council will vote on a motion that would add a parks and trails bond referendum to the election ballot in November. With voter turnout expected to be high due to the presidential election, the city is uniquely poised to gauge its citizens’ commitment to the preservation and expansion of open spaces.
It’s the council’s responsibility to put the matter in the hands of the voters, and the voters’ responsibility to show up at the polls and cast their ballots for an issue that concerns us all.
Agriculture, conservation, outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship have all contributed to making the Gallatin Valley the place it is today. The population boom and the economic diversification the region has experienced is due in large part to people seeking to take advantage of this natural gem.
As more people come, the impulse to develop, build houses and subdivide ranches grows. If the commitment to preservation doesn’t grow alongside the population, the region will lose the qualities that make it so attractive to businesses and families: its sense of place.