An effort to build a new bike trail outside West Yellowstone along an old railroad bed has gained steam with a two-to-one challenge grant.
The Dr. Ezekiel R. and Edna Wattis Dumke Foundation has pledged the grant, enabling the first $375,000 in donations for the trail to be tripled. The Yellowstone Shortline Trail Committee has set a goal of raising $1.25 million to revitalize the historic railroad bed.
“We were drawn to the project because of the connection to railroad transportation, which played an integral role in shaping the community of West Yellowstone,” said Claire Ryberg, granddaughter of Ezekiel and Edna Dumke, in a press release. “Three generations of our family rode the train when travelling to and from summer homes starting with our grandparents in the 1930s. This is a terrific way to honor our grandparents’ legacy and give back to a community that has given us so much throughout the years. The trail will offer a new way for residents and visitors to experience what the area has to offer.”
The trail will use what was once Union Pacific Railroad’s right-of-way stretching from West Yellowstone to the Montana-Idaho border. The route was abandoned decades ago, leaving behind a path with a potential for outdoor recreation.
The goal is to convert the nine-mile section of railroad bed into a hiking-biking trail. The trail will be a 10-foot wide graded path with several bridges and will include amenities such as pavilions, benches, and interpretive signage.
The committee has been working closely with Jason Brey of Custer Gallatin National Forest, who is managing the project for the agency.
Brey said in an email that forest engineers are doing the design work for the trail, bridges and associated infrastructure.
"That work will be completed late this summer or early fall," he wrote.
The Forest Service has secured more than 60% of the necessary funding for construction, he added.
"With this push for public support, we feel we can get the remaining funds to build the trail," Brey wrote.
The contract will go out for bids this winter with ground-breaking next spring.
"The economic and recreational potential of this trail for West Yellowstone is immense," he added.
The Yellowstone Shortline Trail Committee also announced a fiscal sponsorship with the Yellowstone Historic Center, a local nonprofit serving the West Yellowstone community. As a fiscal sponsor the Yellowstone Historic Center will be able to accept tax-deductible donations on behalf of the trail committee, providing an avenue for fundraising.
“When first approached about participating, I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm for the trail as well as the strong connection to YHC’s mission to understand, preserve, and interpret the heritage of the area,” said YHC executive director Kaitlin Johnson.
To learn more about the Yellowstone Shortline Trail and make a contribution, visit www.yellowstoneshortlinetrail.org. All donations at or above $100 will receive recognition along the trail through the Shortline Supporters program. The Yellowstone Historic Center is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, so all or part of your donation may be tax deductible.