Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

Rocky Mountain Adventure Gear - For all Your Motorized and Non-Motorized Adventures!

By Cathy Kahnle
Executive Director, Clearwater Resource Council 

A Place for All

 

August 31, 2017

Photo provided

SEELEY LAKE - It is interesting that the title to this article is also a good description of the Seeley Lake Trails Project purpose.

Three years ago, a diverse group of people got together to talk about working toward a trail system in Seeley Lake. The one overarching theme that came out of the first meeting is that the trail system had to give something to every user group. That every person in the group had to be willing to fight just as hard for the "other" groups as for their own. We also discovered that to make the project really work we needed to hear what EVERY recreational trail user had to say. The process wasn't always popular and we ran into roadblocks along the way but the people who showed up at those early meetings turned out to be not only exceptionally dedicated but also persistently unwilling to give up on the dream.

After three years, the trails project is still going strong. After a long road of organizing, planning, fund raising and practicing collaboration skills, in early 2017 the group launched the public engagement portion of the plan. We needed to understand what the community's dream trail system looked like. After all, what good is it to design a trail system that no one wants?

We designed and circulated a detailed trail survey. We waited on tenterhooks for the first surveys to come back and were blown away when they did.

People not only took the survey but they really took it seriously. They put a huge amount of effort into answering the questions. We had 328 people respond to the survey and the answers were detailed, creative and surprisingly inclusive. One of the main themes that appeared was that the community of Seeley Lake wants trails for all types of recreational user groups. In other words, the community of Seeley Lake wants A TRAIL PLACE FOR ALL.

The trails group is presently evaluating the survey results but there were some common themes expressed.

The town wants to better connect the town to the trails and have safe access around town.

We want to connect to other towns around us.

We want to be able to get from town to Seeley Lake and from each lake to the others.

We want better maps and signs so that the trails we already have are user friendly.

But, even better, there were some terrific ideas generated from the survey including building a sledding hill, having a shuttle service to popular trail heads and my personal favorite.... add to the 350 miles of motorized snowmobile trails with a second groomer on alternate snow-covered roads for non-motorized skiers, skiers with dogs, fat tire bikes and snowshoers. I wish I'd thought of that. There is also a lot of interest in developing single-track, bermed mountain bike trails and developing summer motorized trails, even loops, since presently the only option for summer motorized use is roads.

Other overarching themes include the desire to expand camping in the summer and winter and improve horse access in the Mission Mountains.

The survey respondents offered a wide range of specific trail ideas ranging all around the Clearwater Valley and beyond. The trails group is in the process of identifying and evaluating them.

Photo provided

The Seeley Lake Trails Project Open House Feb. 25, 2017.

The next step will be a second survey to the business owners in town to understand their problems and concerns and hopefully uncover more great ideas to make the trail process more successful. Once that is done a second public meeting will be held to introduce the overall results of the survey. We will show you all of the trails that were proposed, with a corresponding evaluation of that trail for quality and feasibility. And, we will provide an overall view of the many issues and component parts to having a successful trails system including environmental concerns, sustainability, liability, partnerships, education and cultural/historic concerns.

Then comes the most important part – you will get to vote on the trails you think are best. Once the votes are counted, the Seeley Lake Trails Project will be able to produce an outline of a trails system that gives everyone a road map of the community's most feasible and most wanted trails.

BUT, none of this will happen without your input! If we do this together, the resulting trail plan will be designed as truly A PLACE FOR ALL.

 

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