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A micro-brew festival to help fund construction of bicycle and pedestrian trails is scheduled for downtown Billings on Sept. 8.

The event, billed as Ales for Trails, the Great Montana Beer Festival, will feature Montana-made micro-beers and food, live music by local bands and family entertainment. It is scheduled for 3 to 11 p.m. at Second Avenue North and North 29th Street.

Just in time, trail users have something to celebrate – confirmation of a $35,000 grant that will be used to extend a trail along the Yellowstone River and news that a congressional committee has approved a $500,000 grant for eventual trail construction along Alkali Creek.

Darlene Tussing, alternate modes coordinator in the City-County Planning Department, said the $35,000 grant came through the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks as part of the federal Recreational Trails Program.

moreinfo For information on the Ales for Trails festival, or to volunteer to help at the event, call C.J. Hurtig at 256-2196.

For more on BikeNet and the Billings trail system, call Darlene Tussing at 247-8637. For more on Montana breweries, call Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co., 245-0918.

The grant was applied for with help from the Big Sky Economic Development Authority. The money will be used to build a trail across city-owned land at the Public Utilities Department on Belknap Avenue, eventually connecting with a trail through Mystic Park and on up the Yellowstone River.

Tussing said the nonprofit BikeNet organization still hopes to call for bids this fall for construction of a trail that will link downtown Billings with the 10-foot-wide concrete path that stretches from the Heights to Coulson Park. Original plans were to get started on that segment of the trail before this, but trail promoters are having trouble acquiring all the necessary right of way.

The trail to the downtown will be paid for with a mix of federal transportation funds and matching funds from a bond issue approved by city voters in 1999, a bond issue earmarked for trails and improvements to city parks.

In addition to the new $35,000 grant, BikeNet received a federal grant last year for $200,000, which will be used to extend the trail through Mystic Park. The park is just upriver from the Public Utilities Department, a little east and south of where 27th Street crosses over Interstate 90.

The $500,000 for a trail in Alkali Creek, a future segment of the BikeNet system, was part of a package of $32-million worth of transportation projects in Montana. It was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee as part of the fiscal year 2002 Transportation Appropriations Act.

The brew-fest is being organized by BikeNet and Yellowstone Valley Brewing, a Billings micro-brewery. Tussing said the festival was the idea of George Moncure, the owner of Yellowstone Valley Brewing, and also is sponsored by Albertson’s, Beer Baron Sausage, Yellowstone Ice & Water and Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream Co.

The festival will feature only Montana-brewed and -packaged micro-beer, and all proceeds will be donated to BikeNet for construction of new trails. The festival will include family events from 3 to 6 p.m. and non-alcoholic drinks for those younger than 21.

Tussing said a similar event in Great Falls has raised about $100,000 for trail construction over the past five years.

Ed Kemmick can be reached at (406) 657-1293 or ekemmick@billingsgazette.com

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