By Bob Walker, Editor
What is one of the best ways to help recreationists enjoy their trail experiences and protect their trails and resources for the long run? According to the publication Conflicts on Multiple-Use Trails by author Roger Moore, one of the most effective methods is through education and information to the public! One of his examples was signs with positive messages and images. The Capital Trail Vehicle Association (CTVA) employed this theory with an ambitious project to purchase and install state-of-the art trailhead kiosks in three of the most popular trail-heads in Montana’s Big Belt Mountains.
In 2012 CTVA contacted and worked closely with Roy Barkley of the Helena National Forest who provided valuable ideas for where and what the sign needs were in the Big Belts. Roy also worked the project through the myriad of federal regulations and approvals required prior to project initiation. What a great example of public/private cooperation!
The team chose three primary trail-head locations used by OHV recreationists and others– Magpie Gulch, Never Sweat and Hellgate Gulch. Area residents and visitors from throughout Montana and neighboring states begin their adventures into the Big Belts from these sites. The project also satisfied the travel plan for the Bob Ah, another hurdle eliminated!
Now the big challenge. How to fund the project? The Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association successfully lobbied the Montana legislature back in 1989 and 1991 to create an off-highway vehicle registration program and the return of 1/8 of 1% of the vstate gas tax with funds generated to be used primarily for OHV trail maintenance and renovation and safety education. The subsequent grant program administered by Fish, Wildlife & Parks provided a 2013 grant for $14,000 to CTVA to project!
CTVA placed two 2-panel kiosks at Hellgate and Magpie trailheads and a 3-panel at Never Sweat trailhead. ROCKART Signs and Markers from Mesa Arizona provided kiosk materials. The uprights are made of 6 inch by 6 inch square steel tubes with corrosion resistant brown powder coating. Display panels measure 48 inch by 48 inch and are covered by 3/16 inch polycarbonate panel covers with tamper resistant fasteners. A small “roof” provides some protection from weather.
Each kiosk includes a trail map of the area with a bright red “You are Here” marker showing the trailhead’s location in the system. These types of signs are used on some snowmobile trails and prove very informative to snowmobilers and others.
Display panels also include On the Right Trail ethics and safety posters, area rules and regulations, and a logo of the American Flag! The idea to include the American Flag came from Arizona and from the National OHV Conservation Council (NOHVCC). They found that by incorporating our flag on signs and kiosks, vandalism reduced markedly. Apparently most vandals still have some respect for our flag! Finally, included on kiosks is a poster that says, ”This kiosk installed by the Capital Trial Vehicle Association with cooperation of the USFS, funding provided by Montana State Park OHV program.
Projects like this demand many volunteers and equipment. The CTVA has a name for investing a high level of volunteer work on the Helena National Forest to maintain and keep OHV trails open. Writing and submitting the OHV application took a good deal of time but the best example occurred on May 3, 2014 when 20 club members gathered at Hellgate trailhead to install the first kiosk. As you can imagine with that many people, no less than 5 of them assumed the role of supervisor which led to some interesting discussions and debate! After laying out all kiosk parts and 2 attempts at assembling some of those parts, someone said, “Why don’t we look at the directions?” From there most things went smoothly and we completed 2-panel kiosks both at Hellgate and Magpie by days end. Sunday saw 16 club members working in rain and mud to assemble the 3-panel kiosk at Never Sweat trailhead.
To date we received many compliments on the kiosks and the information included in the panels. Through one year and one hunting season, we are pleased to announce no damage from vandalism or bullet holes (knock on wood)! We hear that similar kiosks at the Whitetail Pipestone area near Butte also serve recreationists well and seem to withstand the environment and vandalism. We hope more clubs throughout the state consider informational kiosks at primary trailheads. Finally, remember that your OHV grant program administered by State Parks can fund these important features of a successful trail system!