- September 13, 2016
- Posted by Deena Shotzberger
Three Cabinet Back Country Horsemen and six Montana Conservation Crew Members spent the first week of August constructing turnpikes and digging drainage ditches to improve a spring laden section of the Midge Creek Trail # 177 in the far Northwest Corner of Montana. Over the course of four long days, these nine individuals constructed three sections of turnpike totaling 144 feet, excavated 330 feet of drainage ditches, installed seven culverts and restored an additional 20 feet of an existing turnpike. In addition to the laborious construction work, each individual had a two mile hike into and out of the work area each day.
The Midge Creek trail provides access to the Northwest National Scenic Area and is part of the 1200 mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail that connects the Continental Divide Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail. There were three areas between the 1.5 and 2 mile section of this trail that traversed through numerous springs, seeps, and bogs. These areas desperately needed drainage and surfacing to maintain and improve the trail and protect water and recreational resources. This phase of the project completed installation of the turnpikes and drainage structures, but the overall project is far from complete. Throughout the fall and in to next summer, Cabinet Back Country Horsemen plan to haul 50-75 horse or mule loads of crushed gravel to surface the structures, and to install an additional 25 smaller drainage features to divert water off the two mile section of trail up to the construction area.
While the one week work accomplishments were extraordinary, this project started long before the Montana Conservation Corp Crew Rig pulled into the work site on August 1st, and will continue through the summer of 2017. The 3 River’s District of the Kootenai National Forest has been trying to address drainage problems on the Midge Creek Trail for many years and hasn’t been able to secure funding to complete the work. As trail budgets continue to decline, Cabinet Back Country decided to try and help with some of the more costly trail improvement work. We knew the Chapter would need additional funds for these construction projects, so the Chapter President (Deena Shotzberger) got serious about writing grants. In October of 2015, the Cabinet Back Country Horsemen were awarded a $10,000 two-year expense reimbursement grant from the Recreation Trails Program (RTP)for this trail
The RTP grant allowed Cabinet Back Country Horsemen to fund a Montana Conservation Corps crew for one week to help install the drainage structures and turnpikes. Cabinet Back Country Horsemen members designed and laid out the project, packed all the tools and construction materials, and worked alongside their Montana Conservation Corp partners. The grant also allowed Cabinet BCH to reimburse members for their expenses such as gas, food, horse and trailer use.
Cabinet Back Country Horsemen work in concert with the Kootenai National Forest and strongly support partnerships with other organizations such as the Montana Conservation Corps, Pacific Northwest Trail Association, and Montana Wilderness Association; as they allow all of us to stretch our resources to provide enhanced recreational experiences for the public. Once the surfacing work is completed in 2017, the Midge Creek Trail will provide much easier access to some of the most scenic lands in Northwest Montana.
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