What We Do
PROJECTS FOR PARKS
We are working on implementation of several substantial parks improvement projects. We work closely with Montana State Parks managers to selecte a variety of urgent park needs spread across the state meant to enhance the experience of park visitors and create the next generation of State Park enthusiasts.
In 2021 and beyond, we will be working to complete an even more ambitious set of challenges all aimed at making state parks across Montana even better places for residents, visitors, and natural creatures alike.
LODGING AT PARKS
In 2020 and 2021, we are working to fundraise for, purchase, and construct durable, attractive lodging structures to provide alternatives to camping at Montana State Parks.
For this project we will look for Montana vendors that offer semi permanent structures such as yurts, wall tents, or “Glo-Domes” (geodesic domes) to be purchased and installed at the following parks: Makoshika, Finley Point, and Missouri Headwaters.
Each structure will provide accommodations for 4-8 park visitors who might otherwise never enjoy spending a night in one of our amazing parks. Electricity, running water, and interior furnishing will be provided at each structure when possible.
WILD HORSE ISLAND STATE PARK
The Wild Horse Island Unit of Flathead Lake State Park receives around 20,000 visitors annually who seek world-class wildlife viewing opportunities. In 2019 and 2020 we worked on several immediate project opportunities that improved wildlife habitat, improved park access, and enhanced the visitor experience.
Ponderosa Pine encroachment and noxious weeds invasion threatened the Palouse Prairie that serves as the forage for the island’s wildlife; mule deer, bighorn sheep, and the namesake wild horses. Before Ponderosa Pine encroaching saplings grew to a larger, more difficult size to manage, Montana Conservation Crews were hired to hand thin these small saplings, thus conserving the grasses and forbs that sheep and deer depend on. Additionally, crews hand pulled and sprayed noxious weeds, most notably Canada thistle and knapweed.
Additionally, we worked with Montana State Parks staff to replace old landing site signage with new, aesthetically pleasing kiosks. These new kiosks are fabricated out of logs harvested from the island that create a unique aesthetic.
Providing clear, consistent information to visitors as they arrive to the park at one of six boat landing sites and again along trails as they traverse the island is critical to establishing appropriate human behavior and minimizing negative interaction between humans and wildlife. As visitation to Montana State Parks and Wildhorse Island increases, implementing cost-effective measures to protect wildlife habitat and ensure visitor safety will prove to be a very worthwhile investment.
LEWIS AND CLARK CAVERNS STATE PARK
In the spring of 2020 we developed an Alternative Caverns Tour that opened the caving, speleology, and spelunking opportunities at the State Park to a much wider array of visitors.
The only tour of the caverns that was regularly offered at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park was an arduous hike and journey through a large portion of the caverns complex. The steep hike to the upper caverns entrance, frequent stooping, crawling and sliding made the tour inaccessible for park visitors with many mobility or physical limitations. When completed, the Paradise Room tour allowed up to an additional 12,240 non-traditional visitors to explore the renowned namesake caverns of the State Park.
We also provided the matching funds needed to develop alternative campsites designed to accommodate travelers arriving at the park on foot or bicycle. These new campsites provide specific amenities such as lockers, charging stations, weather protection, tools for basic gear maintenance, and nearby drinking water access. These campsites help to accommodate a growing number of long distance cyclists traveling in Southwest Montana.
Lewis and Clark Caverns is a great park for the development of these campsites. As Montana's first state park, Lewis and Clark Caverns is a top tier destination park that offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities such as spelunking, hiking, fishing, swimming, wildlife viewing, birding, and more.
SLUICE BOXES STATE PARK
The trail to the Sluice Boxes State Park overlook may lead to one of the most spectacular views in Central Montana, but the path itself is in bad shape and getting worse every day. Currently, the trail passes through areas that are wet and muddy from a year-round spring. Hikers, just trying to keep feet dry and clean, avoid the trail in this area and subsequently cause a lot of erosion and trampling of native plants nearby. As if the mud and muck were not enough, the trail then climbs to a steep cliff area where negotiating the steep climbs and descents often proves too much for many park visitors. We will build a bridge over the spring and build stairs to negotiate the cliff which will improve access to the outstanding overlook above Belt Creek. Once the work is completed, the world class view of this Central Montana gem will be available to new hikers and longtime park visitors alike. All of this great work is being supported by On X Maps, a Montana based company committed to protecting and preserving outdoor access for everyone.
SHARED BICYCLE CAMPING AREA AT LEWIS & CLARK CAVERNS STATE PARK
We supported the opportunity for bicyclists and hikers to travel through the state of Montana by providing shared camping areas for individuals and groups traveling by bicycle or hikers on foot, with a no-turn-away policy. The camping area we provided matching funding for is designed specifically to support & optimize the bicyclists’ and hikers' needs when travelling long distances.
Montana's State Parks embody the best things about our state. Clean, natural, accessible to everyone, our parks create a shared sense of pride in our communities. However, state budget shortfall, natural disasters, and increasing use have left our parks needing serious work.
A donation to the Montana State Parks Foundation helps fund projects like the ones described below. Projects that improve our parks and ensure that they will remain great for generations to come. Please help your parks with a tax-deductible gift today.
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