Armed with shovels, picks and wheelbarrows, volunteers of all ages set out on Saturday to resurface and build sections of trail in and around Bozeman.

They were participating in National Trails Day, a nationwide trail-building event that celebrates the outdoors and promotes community involvement.

For the past 21 years, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust has organized an event to mark National Trails Day. Each year, 150 to 200 volunteers spend the first Saturday in June getting their hands dirty and breaking new ground.

More than 70 miles of trails wind through Bozeman, many of which have been built and maintained by GLVT volunteers over the past two decades. Penelope Pierce, executive director of GVLT, said local trails are a major factor in the “health, livability and sustainability of our community.”

“Bozeman has begun to grow into a larger town, and we want to do all we can to hold on to that small-town feel,” she said. “The trails benefit everybody, from bikers, dog-walkers, runners or hikers.”

Gathering first a Lindley Park, the volunteers then split into two groups. One spread gravel and resurfaced trails in Lindley Park, while the other focused on clearing and widening new paths at the Highland Glen Nature Reserve.

The trail system through the nature reserve across from Painted Hills was built by GLVT volunteers last year. There, multicolored wildflowers bloom along the trail with the Bridger Range as a backdrop. The only sounds besides birdsong Saturday were shovels in the dirt.

“These trails contribute so much value to the community. They provide transportation, recreation and relaxation.” Pierce said. “We are fortunate enough to be surrounded by such beautiful public lands.”

While it was many volunteers' first time participating in the event, some, like Christopher Spogess, have donated their time year after year. Spogess has been volunteering on National Trails Day for 19 years.

“I consider it a user fee for this incredible landscape,” Spogess said while digging his shovel into a patch of intrusive weeds. “People tend to take these trails for granted, but it takes hard work to keep them smooth and safe for everybody.”

The GLVT holds smaller, similar volunteer events all summer. The organization hopes to finish work on the Main Street to the Mountains trail project in 2016, filling in all the gaps to make a path from downtown to the “M” trailhead.

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