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A local land trust is partnering with the county to create a trail plan for the area connecting Four Corners, Belgrade and Bozeman in response to rapid growth.

EJ Porth, associate director for the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, said the plan won’t involve building trails, but establishing a vision for a trail system in what’s known as the “triangle area.” She hopes landowners, businesses and residents will help determine the vision.

“We really want to hear from these communities,” Porth said. “Every day we’re losing time.”

The triangular section of land connecting Four Corners, Belgrade and Bozeman was once all agricultural, but is quickly becoming more residential. Sean O’Callaghan, planning director for Gallatin County, said it’s one of the fastest growing parts of the county.

According to GVLT, no active guide or requirement for trail development exists in the area, meaning there isn’t a network of trails connecting subdivisions.

A trail map from Sanderson Stewart, the design firm hired to study the area, shows a series of small, unconnected pathways scattered throughout neighborhoods.

“Trails have been built on a development by development basis,” O’Callaghan said. He said a plan is expected to bring about more “concerted and thoughtful efforts” to establish a trail system.

Officials from Bozeman and Belgrade on the county’s Growth Policy Steering Committee are working on the plan, according to O’Callaghan. GVLT is helping pay for it.

“We’re certainly going to have several opportunities along the way for the public to comment,” he said.

Porth said the plan could look like GVLT’s Main Street to the Mountains project, which established over 80 miles of connected trails across Bozeman. However, input from landowners, businesses and residents will guide what planners create.

People in the Gallatin Valley value access to the outdoors, so “clearly, this is what people want,” according to Porth. Since growth likely won’t stop, it’s important to think ahead and plan infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians, she said.

Porth said several other opportunities for trail connectivity in the valley have already been missed.

It takes time — the Main Street to the Mountains project took almost 30 years — but she said planning ahead for the triangle area will pay off.

“Us coming together with our expertise will make this so much stronger,” she said.

Overlapping jurisdictions in the triangle area have complicated planning. Porth said the differences meant GVLT needed to communicate with representatives of multiple governments to make the plan strong. She said all parties have a desire to work together.

“Trails don’t know those jurisdictional lines,” she said.

Developing the trail plan is expected to take approximately one year, ending in mid-summer.

Trail building will end when development in the triangle area is over, according to Porth.

“Is it 30 years? Is it 20 years? We don’t know,” she said.

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Helena Dore can be reached at or at 582-2628.

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