2020 MTVRA Trail Tractor Maintenance Program Report
By Mona Ehnes
MTVRA received its first $90,000 Recreational Trails Program grant for trail maintenance using a Sutter trail Dozer in 2014. The most recent work done during the summer of 2020 is the seventh year MTVRA performed trail maintenance on USFS OHV trails and BLM OHV trails on public lands across Montana.
2020 was a busy summer for the Trail Tractor Maintenance Program. There were four new locations with trails that had not received motorized mechanized maintenance in prior years. The trail maintenance contractor working on the 2020 MTVRA trail maintenance grant projects also performed work on a project on the Lincoln Ranger District and another USFS trail construction project in the Little Belt Mountains. The project in the Little Belt Mountains was funded by an OHV grant awarded to the Missouri River Off-Roaders, a four-wheel drive club from Great Falls.
BLM Butte Field Office: Beginning in April, there were 33 miles of the BLM trails at Pipestone OHV Area maintained this past summer. This area receives maintenance every year because it is a high-use OHV area, and this year $18,000 was spent on maintaining these trails. BLM covered the $4,500 cost to have an employee dedicated to on-site support of the work.
BLM Billings Field Office: Work was done on Red Pryor Route #1022 and Dandy Mine #1034 trails. This is the first major maintenance that has been undertaken in this area in over 30 years. This project was planned for September and October of 2019 but was canceled due to the early snow and frozen ground. The BLM also worked on additional trails in the area with other funding sources. The RTP grant fund covered $19,617.50 of the cost for the project and, BLM matched with $5,404.
Beaverhead-Dillon National Forest, Butte Ranger District: In the Fleecer area, trail #4164 received maintenance during July 28-30th. This is the first time that work has been done in the Fleecer area, although it had been proposed in past grants. This trail was identified as high priority due to safety issues. On 3.5 miles of trail, $5,197.50 of RTP grant funds were spent with a match of $1,738.41 in USFS employee time. After work was completed David Scherbel reported that the work was excellent and that he had received calls from riders telling him how great it looks and that it was much safer than in had been in many years.
Beaverhead-Dillon National Forest, Dillon Ranger District: The Comet Ridge Project consisted of approximately 4.7 miles of trail work. This trail had been included in prior years’ grant proposals. $7,080 of RTP grant funds were spent on this project with a USFS match of $1,845 in employee time.
MTVRA member and past contractor Parke Scott had talked to the Program Manager for Recreation about maintenance work. Since she was new to the area, he offered to take her out to see the motorized trails on the ground. After seeing the trail conditions first-hand, she was surprised to see how poorly maintained they were. She noted that the Comet trail looked like it should be closed for safety reasons, with excessive water erosion to several portions of the trail and an erosion crevice approximately 5 feet deep and quite long. There were many boulders that needed to be dug out and she counted about 45 water diversions that needed to be installed within the 4.7-mile stretch of trail being maintained.
The contractor was on site August 3 through the 6th and when done, The Program Manager said she was extremely happy with the work done and surprised at the quantity and quality of the work that could be completed by the contractor and his equipment. She has requested that they return in 2021 to complete the Comet Ridge project and work on additional trails.
The contractor had been scheduled to go to Bozeman Ranger District, but after explaining the situation on the Dillon Ranger District and the safety need, they rearranged their schedule to conform with the contractor’s availability. This was a win-win situation.
Custer-Gallatin National Forest, Bozeman Ranger District: The contractor was on site August 10th through the 20th, performing maintenance on a total of 24.96 miles of trails, at a total cost of $15,048. Trail #502 had 10.64 miles maintained, #555 had 6.42 miles maintained and trail #506 had 7.87 miles maintained. The RTP grant paid $14,722.50 on the invoice for this work, which consumed the last of the funding available in the grant. MTVRA contributed $325.50 to pay the remainder of the invoice. These trails were included in the project that was scheduled for summer of 2019 but had been postponed.
This trail work required prework of clearing and planning, which was completed in June. A switchback with a turn that was too tight to be safe required blasting work that was completed August 5th.
BLM Billings Field Office: The contractor was on site September 29th through October 13th, performing maintenance on 19 miles of trails in the Shepherd Ah-Nei OHV Area. The BLM does not require trail numbers in OHV areas, so this was the first time MTVRA had worked with a project to maintain trails identified only on a map without any trail identification numbers. Total cost to the RTP grant for this project was $18,256 with the BLM matching time valued at $1,620 and $3,000 for MCC on contract with the BLM. This was the first MTVRA Trail Maintenance project completed with Advanced Trail Services, LLC.
Advanced Trail Services, LLC: This fall PJ Brown, who has worked with Parke Scott of Scott’s Fire Service from Dillon for the past several years, purchased the trail maintenance portion of the business. His new company is Advanced Trail Services, LLC. Within the purchase, the contract with MTVRA was transferred to PJ and Advanced Trail Services, LLC. PJ started by doing the trail rake with the ATV and then progressed thru the training on the Sutter dozer with Parke. We will miss Parke, but realize it was time to make some changes. Scott’s Fire Service is still in business and fighting fires as well as other things. Thanks for all your help.