Gazette opinion: From tickets to tracks — BLM does great work in Acton

2014-06-16T00:00:00Z Gazette opinion: From tickets to tracks — BLM does great work in Acton The Billings Gazette
June 16, 2014 12:00 am

The Acton Recreation Area has been transformed from a place of citations to excitement.

That’s due in large part to the Bureau of Land Management designating a mountain bike riding area there.

However, this story could have been a lot different if not for the biking community and some attentive BLM officials.

Three years ago, the BLM noticed improvised trails in the Acton Recreation Area. The only problem? Mountain biking wasn’t allowed on the land and the newly-formed, but unauthorized trails were wreaking a bit of havoc.

That’s when the BLM warden started handing out citations.

That could have been the beginning of a protracted cat-and-mouse game that would have only engendered hard feelings on both sides.

Instead, the BLM’s field office in Billings started to work on ways to incorporate trails into the land.

As Tim Finger, the recreation planner for the BLM field office in Billings said, mountain bikers “had a lot of passion, but no permission.”

The agency recognized that it had provided places for target shooters, horseback riders, off-highway vehicle users and motorcyclists, but no place near Billings on BLM land for mountain bikers.

So, the groups started working together to create trails that had different skill levels. Old trails that had braided or erosion concerns have also been repaired.

In so many ways, this is a good deal for area residents.

This puts a large mountain biking area on BLM land, close to Billings, Montana’s largest city. It’s easy to believe that as the city grows, so too will the need for more recreation. And, as the city continues its steady growth, more people will look for opportunities to get out of the city and ride their bikes. This area, located less than 20 miles from Billings, is the perfect distance for getting out, but not needing to spend all the day traveling.

Secondly, we continue to see Billings becoming a destination location. There are so many opportunities for Billings to capitalize on its tourism, in addition to retail, entertainment, food and history.

This will undoubtedly attract folks to Billings and hopefully keep those visitors here longer.

With the addition of great bike trails throughout Billings in the past few years and this most recent action by the BLM, we are encouraged that momentum will continue to push forward biking, outdoor and recreational causes. We hopefully won’t lose sight of what we have going when it comes to outdoor recreation in Billings.

The more unified, the more developed we can make it, the more of an asset it will be for our community now and in the future.

Chance to do more

There’s also a chance for us to do more. We should continue to support and praise the BLM for its efforts in the Acton Recreation Area. We so often hear how dysfunctional or unresponsive government is; well, here’s an example of officials working together to create a great new outdoor resource for us on public land.

Finally, we hope that the same people who created the original trails — mountain bike riders — will also help informally police the area and make sure that other users respect the space and make sure it will be a viable place for decades to come.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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