Helena releases list of proposed open lands projects, seeks public input

Helena leaders are asking for public input, after they released a list of major projects they’re considering on city parks and open lands next year.

The city will hold an online open house Thursday, Nov. 19, at 5:30 p.m., to present information about the proposed projects and their impacts.

“We want to share our final list and our rationale for why we have that list and what projects we’re proposing to move forward with,” said Kristi Ponozzo, the city’s parks, recreation and open lands director. “We want to get feedback on the analysis we did, and just generally hear comments on those final projects.”

The list includes proposals that came both from city staff and from the public. Ponozzo said this is the first time they’ve put it together using a new public process approved earlier this year.

“I think we are trying to make sure that we are listening and receiving input from the community on the projects that they would like to see and the projects that they think are important,” she said.

The city proposed improvements at several trailheads. They plan a new restroom, picnic tables and other facilities at the Old Shooting Range Trailhead in Davis Gulch. They also want to redesign parking areas at the Limekiln and Mount Ascension Trailheads.

City staff also recommended four projects based on public proposals:

· A new half-mile, ADA-accessible trail at the Mount Helena Trailhead
· Up to 15 new rock climbing routes on Mount Helena
· A new connecting trail for riders using the directional bike trail on Mount Ascension
· Rerouting part of a trail near the Beattie Street Trailhead.

Much of the work on those projects would be done by citizen groups and other volunteers, though the city will still provide oversight.

The Helena City Commission will have the final say on which projects move forward. They’ll make a decision on the project list during a meeting next month.

Ponozzo said they know some of the proposed projects, like the ADA trail, will not be completed next year, but they will at least be able to get them started.

In the future, the city will put out this type of major project list regularly – though Ponozzo said it may not be every year.

“It’s challenging because we have quite a few projects,” she said. “I think we received a lot of really great proposals from the community, which is really important. Evaluating all of those and then implementing the ones that we are will be challenging.”

You can find a link to the major projects list on the city’s website, under the heading “Open Lands General Documents.”

If you want to take part in next week’s open house or submit public comment on the proposals, you can find more information here.

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