HELENA — The Bureau of Land Management’s Butte field office has recently finalized its Scratchgravel Hills Recreation Management Plan. The plan will make room for a brand new 35-mile trail system open to a plethora of non-motorized recreational uses.
The 5,500-acre area is popular for all sorts of non-motorized recreation activities including biking, hiking, trail-running, disc-golf, and horseback riding. The management plan works to not only create a more stable trail system, but also improve recreation experiences and benefits, reduce user conflicts, identify specific trail use zones, improve signage and visitor information, and provide sustainable options for continued use of the existing trail.
The plan includes the call for an increased presence of law enforcement as well as a leash requirement for dogs within 100 yards of trailheads.
While this area will be inclusive of multiple different recreation activities, e-bikes or electric bikes will not be allowed. This is a hotly contested disagreement among mountain bikers. Jim Barnes, owner of Big Sky Cycling in Helena, and one of the citizens to originally bring up the idea of updating Scratchgravel, says that he was hoping that E-bikes would have been allowed.
“But really the people that ride e-mountain bikes have a lot of bicycling experience. It’s usually an older person that just doesn’t have the fitness or the knees to be able to pull long climbs any longer. And so, it is just a quiet assist up the hill, and really, speeds downhill are limited by the terrain that we’re on anyways,” says Barnes.
Construction will hopefully begin in the summer of 2023 and then should be completed within 4 to 5 years.