Tensions are building between local landowners and the users of trails adjacent to the landowners’ property. And that does not serve anyone well. All involved should step up efforts to reduce the friction before it turns into something worse – like a lawsuit.

Landowners along the Painted Hills and Triple Tree trails recently wrote a letter to the Gallatin County Commission and the Gallatin Valley Land Trust complaining that trail users leave litter and use the trails after dark in violation of regulations. Homeowners complain of trail users peering into windows after dark. The property owners are asking the county and land trust to educate trail users about the regulations governing trail use through more signage and enforcement actions.

In an ideal world, those measures would be unnecessary. It’s a matter of common sense and courtesy that hikers would stay on trails and off private property, pick up litter after themselves and their pets and respect the privacy of landowners. But we don’t live in an ideal world.

GVLT and the county could probably do a little more to curb inappropriate behavior. Organization members spend time on the trails. Asking them to help keep trails clean and speak with hikers who are doing things they shouldn’t would help. An occasional visit to trailheads by a deputy sheriff might help, as well. And responsible hikers in general should take it upon themselves to keep trails clean and ask fellow trail users to act appropriately while hiking.

But landowners need to practice a little tolerance, as well. There are going to be inconvenient times when trail users are noisy. But remember that having that trail nearby likely increases property values.

The Bozeman area enjoys a marvelous network of trails. And much of that system is the product of easements granted by private landowners. If we are going to expand the trail system to meet population growth, more landowner cooperation will be needed in the future. But if difficulties between trail users and landowners continue, getting that cooperation is going to be difficult.

It’s in everyone’s interest to keep the landowner-trail user relationship amicable. And all trail users can do a little more to help this situation.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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