At a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday for the second phase of the Swords Park Trail, Michael Sanderson called the bike and pedestrian path atop the Rims “a crossroads of the trail system.”
Sanderson, president of Sanderson-Stewart, the firm that designed and engineered the trail project, said his company’s stated “core purpose” is “to plan and design enduring communities.”
“I can’t think of a project that embodies that idea more than this one,” he said.
The $621,535 project, paid for with federal funds, will add about a mile of new concrete trail to Swords Park, connecting the existing trail at the east end of the park with the Alkali Creek Trail. When it is completed, bicyclists will be able to ride from the airport to the Yellowstone River on paved, off-road trails.
Nash Emmerich, president of BikeNet, said that organization’s goal is to create a complete trail system all over the city.
“This project is going to be a huge step in that,” he said.
The ceremonial groundbreaking involved representatives of Sanderson-Stewart; Knife River, the contractor; BikeNet; the Billings Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau; and the city’s Department of Parks
As part of the ceremonies, Emmerich also introduced a new fundraising drive to sponsor hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of trailside amenities and other improvements to Swords Park.
BikeNet and the Parks Department are seeking donations to pay for bike racks, mile marker signs, wayfinding signs, benches, information kiosks, restrooms, drinking fountains, picnic tables and interpretive signs.
The city also hopes to fund large-scale improvements to several prominent sections of Swords Park, including the site of Yellowstone Kelly’s grave at the very top of the park; Skeleton Cliff, where Crow Indians used to place their dead on raised platforms; and Boothill Cemetery at the base of the park, where early-day residents of Coulson, the river town that preceded Billings, buried their dead.
Estimated costs of various parts of the project range from $700 for a mile marker to nearly $450,000 for the improvements to Skeleton Cliff. Individuals, organizations and corporations can also sponsor sections of trail, donating money and volunteer time to clean and
After the groundbreaking, Kevin Kooistra, the community historian with the Western Heritage Center, led a tour of the part of the trail that will wind up the hill to Yellowstone Kelly’s grave.
He said Kelly died in California in 1928 and asked to be buried in Montana. Several cities competed for the honor of hosting his mortal remains, Kooistra said, and the Billings Chamber of Commerce finally prevailed.
The body had to be stored in a mortuary for six months until the weather was nice enough for a parade and the interment, Kooistra said.
Contact Ed Kemmick at email@example.com or 657-1293.