HELENA — After 10 years of work, the East Helena Greenway Project is now a reality as 322 acres of former ASARCO land is now in the hands of Prickly Pear Land Trust (PPLT) for the creation of a trail system between East Helena and Montana City.
On December 30 the Montana Environmental Trust Group, LLC (METG) conveyed title to 242 acres along the reconstructed Prickly Pear Creek corridor south of Highway 12 and approximately 80 acres along Prickly Pear Creek near Kennedy Park in East Helena to PPLT.
PPLT says the project was possible thanks to state and local partnerships working to make the vision a reality.
“Ten years ago, the City of East Helena asked Prickly Pear Land Trust to help envision trails and public access on this land. It’s incredible to celebrate this project coming to life. This community - with new schools, businesses, and now the Greenway Trail - is poised for a strong future,” said PPLT Executive Director Mary Hollow. “A project of this magnitude only happens with incredible partnership, I commend those who have made this possible. 328 acres of brand new outdoor access, and we know that when kids achieve a greater connection to the outdoors, they experience happier and healthier lives. What an incredibly smart move for this forward-thinking community.”
PPLT will work with the State of Montana Natural Resource Damage Program (NDRP) on design, construction and maintenance of the Greenway recreational access and educational amenities. $3.2 million has been allocated for the project in the NRDP East Helena Natural Resource Restoration Plan approved by Governor Steve Bullock in 2019.
East Helena Mayor James Schell says the project will be a great benefit to the growing community.
“The Greenway project honors the hard-working, proud, and dedicated people that built this community,” said Schell. “The hard work and dedication it took in making this project come to fruition by so many organizations and stakeholders cannot be understated. In an area where tales of trespass and memories of a few can be environmentally transformed and enjoyed by so many is a wonderful achievement. Leaving the Greenway for generations of families and visitors to safely enjoy for decades to come is something to be really proud of and I thank all of those that made it happen. History should never be forgotten, only built on. The legacy of the ASARCO smelter stands tall here in East Helena, it always has and with projects like this always will.”
The East Helena Greenway Project will connect to the East Helena Public Schools (EHPS). Once the project is fully developed the land will then be transferred to the school district who have agreed to serve as the long-term steward of the land.
“EHPS is thrilled to see this project moving forward - what an awesome educational resource this will be for our community,” said Ron Whitmoyer, EHPS Superintendent.
PPLT says they’ll be outlining the next steps of the project in early 2021. The development of the new trail system won’t be a walk in the park, but once completed it will provide good outdoor recreation and access for generations to come.