Trail management groups spearhead etiquette campaign

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Outdoor enthusiasts may have already started noticing the new signage as several area trail management groups came together to launch Outside Kind Flathead, a new courtesy campaign for trail users aimed at reducing the Conflicts.

Organized by Whitefish Legacy Partners, the new campaign is a partnership between Foys to Blacktail Trails, Gateway to Glacier Trails, Rails to Trails Northwest Montana, Flathead Area Mountain Bikers, Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Flathead National Forest and Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, mis together with the goal of reminding everyone to recreate with courtesy and kindness as the trails in the area become more and more popular.

“We started talking with other people in the valley who manage the trails to ask them what they see and get a better idea of ​​what is needed. As we had these conversations, it became clear that everyone needed these messages of kindness,” said Director of Lands and Partnerships for White Legacy Partners, Margosia Jadkowski. “We don’t have a lot of user conflicts here and we feel very lucky about that. We see an increase in the use of all our trails year after year and there are many new users, whether visitors or locals who are just discovering all these excellent trail systems in their backyards. . As these new users arrive, it is important that we do not develop user contention issues. »

Created by the Outside Kind Alliance and led by One Montana, a non-profit organization based in Bozeman, the Outside Kind brand is inspired by Ski Kind and Play Kind, brands created by the Winter Wildlands Alliance and the Granite Backcountry Alliance .

As more groups join the alliance, the hope is that trail users will see a more consistent message regarding accepted practices on Montana’s trail systems.

“If we all spread the same message around the state, it will be less confusing for users. It really amplifies what any organization can do in terms of outreach and exposure,” Jadkowski said. “There are other communities in Montana that have similar frontcountry recreation trails where user conflict has really escalated very quickly. In some places, it tore their community apart and made it quite unpleasant. That’s something we definitely don’t want to see happen here. Often, kindness and just being friendly can really determine how a person feels about their experience when meeting other users on the trail. People need to think about how their actions may affect others. A smile and a thank you can go a long way.

Launched May 2 and working with a $20,000 budget from Whitefish Legacy Partners this year, plus a $5,000 grant from the Whitefish Community Foundation and $3,000 each from Explore Whitefish and Discover Kalispell, Outside Kind Flathead has already set to work creating a website, trail signage and educational materials for its five principles: be courteous, aware, safe and inclusive, and leave no trace.

With many user types on the trails, Outside Kind Flathead will target different groups with its first six user group-specific campaigns in the Flathead Valley this year: Hike Kind, Wag Kind, Ride Kind, Trot Kind, Run Kind and Ski Kind.

“It sounds like a great idea and is something that’s really needed on the trails,” said Erynn Castellanos, education and partnerships specialist at the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation. “It’s important for people to understand that there are many types of trail users and not everyone knows how to approach different types of user groups.”

While exact numbers are hard to come by, all participating groups agree that trail use in the area is on the rise, with visitors and locals discovering new ways to recreate.

As Whitefish Legacy Partners estimates it costs the organization $1,400 per mile to maintain the trails and $5,800 per trailhead per year, while Fish, Wildlife and Parks says it is spending more and more each year for trail cleanups, all organizations involved hope the new message of kindness will help limit destructive behavior.

“It’s a great way to share messages around the community and with people who visit about how to recreate responsibly. It’s especially important now that we’re seeing more and more use of our network of trails with all types of users,” said Flathead National Forest spokeswoman Tamara Mackenzie. “There’s definitely been a big increase in people who aren’t as familiar with outdoor recreation air who visit the area. Anything we can do to help spread this message of kindness is helpful. Whitefish Legacy Partners has really stepped up their game in educating locals and visitors. It’s really cool to see .

“We were already seeing an increase in all kinds of leisure before the Covid pandemic, which is great. We are blessed to have the resources and opportunities for outdoor recreation here, but with that comes the responsibility to ensure those same opportunities are available for future generations, the Montana spokesperson added. Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1, Dillon Tabish. “We love this region, but we don’t want to love it to death. This is an effort to really get ahead of the tidal wave of growth that we are witnessing. I think we’re really at a watershed moment here in western Montana with the amount of growth we’re seeing and the number of visits we’re having. Sustainability is going to be the call we’re all going to have to answer moving forward.

Although the different groups involved champion several types of trail users, they all agree that trail courtesy is key to a fun experience and the future of the trail system.

“We all do what we love on the trails. There should be no hard feelings between user groups. Ultimately, it’s about reaching an understanding between the groups so that everyone can enjoy the outdoors and their time on the trails,” said Greg Theis, director of Flathead Area Mountain Bikers. “Just being friendly goes a long way.”

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