By Jason Stuart
Republished with permission from the Glendale Ranger Review. Glendive, MT. Sunday, December 17, 2017.
For the first time in its history, the Montana State Parks Foundation will directly fund the completion of four projects in state parks across Montana, including one in Glendive’s Makoshika State Park in 2018.
On Tuesday, the MSPF announced it has committed to spending $15,000 to improve Makoshika’s Diane Gabriel Trail. The organization will also fund projects at Sluice Boxes, Milltown, and Lone Pine state parks next year.
“This is the first time that our organization will be specifically expending funds for projects in state parks,” said MSPF executive director Coby Gierke. “So we are charting a new course and we are trying to have a direct impact on state parks.”
Gierke – also the first director in the organization’s history, beginning work in August – said he was approached about helping fund a project in Makoshika by park manager Chris Dantic and Region 5 parks manager Doug Habermann. Dantic credited Habermann for coming up with the idea for MSPF to contribute to the Diane Gabriel Trail project.
“It’s an exciting project and it’s our most popular trail,” Dantic said.
He added that Gierke, who is a native of Miles City and has family living in Glendive, was particularly enthusiastic about helping fund a project in Makoshika. “Coby has the roots here in Glendive and Miles City and loves the park, so he definitely wanted a project here,” Dantic said.
Gierke said that besides his family roots in the area, he believed it was very important for the MSPF to make sure to expend some of its resources in a park in Eastern Montana, saying he sees too many statewide organizations seemingly ignore the eastern half of the state.
“I felt it was very important to have a big impact on an important place in Eastern Montana,” Gierke said. “So many statewide organizations spend most of their money, resources, and time in western Montana.”
He added that the MSPF as a whole also felt that as the state’s largest state park and the highest-ranked park in Montana State Park’s internal park rankings, it was a natural fit for them to fund a project in Makoshika.
“We felt that Makoshika is one of the best parks in the state. It’s one of the absolute gems in the state park system,” Gierke said.
With the MSPF funding, Gierke said the plan is to purchase new interpretive panels for the Diane Gabriel Trail. Dantic noted that will also include moving and redesigning the interpretive viewing area for the hadrosaur fossil at the top of the trail. After the interpretive panels, Gierke said the plan is to spend the bulk of the rest of the funding on “rebuilding sections of the trail that are failing,” something Dantic noted it sorely needs.
“It does have a lot of hazardous spots,” Dantic said of the trail. Gierke said that while this is the first time the MSPF has directly contributed to completing state parks projects, the goal is to keep going, and he hopes to fund more projects in Makoshika in the near future.
“Specifically at Makoshika, there are several things we’d like to do,” Gierke said. “We’d like the Diane Gabriel Trail to be the first of a series of trail projects that we complete in Makoshika.”
There is another major project for Makoshika the MSPF would like to eventually help out with as well – getting a potable water line and a new campground built in the park.
“We would love to help Chris with that water line,” Gierke said.
It’s not something the MSPF can tackle at present, he added, but he said that hopefully at some point the organization can help push that project through to completion as well.
“There’s no match we can offer for it yet, but it is a project we would like to look at getting in on,” Gierke said. “It’s something we’re very interested in, we just can’t find the right funding mechanism to do it right now.”
Reach Jason Stuart at firstname.lastname@example.org.