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Two local nonprofits and Bozeman Health have introduced a new multi-use trail along Highland Glen to improve access for non-skiers and reduce conflict among trail users.

The Bridger Ski Foundation, Gallatin Valley Land Trust and Bozeman Health announced the opening of the Highland Glen Multi-Use Trail west of the hospital on Tuesday.

People can bike, ski, walk, run or snowshoe along the approximately 1.7 mile long ungroomed trail. It takes visitors to the East Ridge Trail, which is also ungroomed.

Jenny White, a spokesperson for BSF, said there’s no ski trail on the ridge, as grooming machinery can’t make it up there. However, the East Ridge Trail boasts “amazing views of the valley,” giving visitors a “great feeling of getting out of town while you’re still in town.”

Users can access the new winter route from Highland Blvd. by the Knolls, the new Hyalite View subdivision trails or the gate on Kagy Boulevard by the Painted Hills Trailhead. Access through the farmstead off Ellis Street is not permitted, BSF wrote.

The new trail represents a pilot project by BSF to limit user conflicts and improve access to skiing and other forms of winter recreation. The nonprofit advises people to pick up after their dogs, keep them on leashes and limit foot and bike traffic to the ungroomed portion of the trail.

Because the trail is narrow, “it’s doubly important to slow down and yield to other users when passing,” BSF wrote.

“I think this is a great addition to Highland Glen in the winter, and we are excited to see the ski trails and this multi-use trail co-exist side by side,” said Evan Weiss, BSF’s executive director, in a news release. Making Highland Glen accessible is “an important part of keeping our community healthy and happy,” he said.

White said the snowpack at the Highland Glen Nature Preserve is shallow, which makes grooming challenging when there are lots of ruts and footprints. She added that multi-use traffic combined with lots of junctions and intersections in the trail network can be tricky.

“I think separating those two trails there is going to be a really nice solution so that everybody can still have access to that area,” she said.

Bozeman Health owns Highland Glen, but it allows BSF to groom cross-country ski trails there in the winter. BSF members packed in the new trail with snowshoes last week, then marked it using wooden poles fit with red and yellow plastic discs.

“Creating trails and providing public access for recreation and exercise align with Bozeman Health’s mission to improve community health and quality of life,” said Jason Smith, Bozeman Health chief advancement officer, in a news release. “As we all know, a walk outside is nature’s best medicine.”

GVLT partners with BSF regularly to deal with winter trail issues. The nonprofit helped to map out the multi-use route, according to White.

Matt Parsons, the trails director for GVLT, said Highland Glen has is a popular place for people to walk or ride their bikes in the summer, so it’s nice to give people the option to snowshoe with their dogs or wander on foot.

“We’re so grateful to BSF and Bozeman Health for coming up with a solution for people who don’t ski but still want to enjoy this amazing natural area,” he said.

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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