Go Local donates 3% of each issue’s advertising revenue to a local nonprofit organization.
This issue supports Foy’s to Blacktail Trails.
Foy’s to blacktail trails (ftbt)
Q&A with Gabe Dillon, FTBT program coordinator
What is your mission statement?
We work to enhance and steward a multi-use, community-focused trail system and also advocate for access and trail connectivity within the greater Flathead Valley.
What’s your backstory?
Many decades ago the Civilian Conservation Corps established a route from the Foy’s Lake area near Kalispell to the top of Blacktail Mountain. In the late 1990s, a group of locals saw how development was spreading throughout the valley and started working to secure permanent public access to the historic trail system.
It was no small task—this meant purchasing 320 acres of land between Herron Park and the John Chase Forest, as well as securing conservation easements across all the private land segments—owned by both Weyerhaeuser and individual landowners—between Herron Park and the Forest Service lands to the south.
FTBT became a nonprofit in 2005 and spent the next decade raising money to buy the land, then gifted it to Flathead County Parks, taking Herron Park from 120 to 440 acres. The last permanent conservation easement was signed in 2017 and we constructed the 13.5-mile Foy’s to Blacktail Trail later that year.
Since 2017, we have built the Emmon’s Spring Trail to provide water access along the route and added noxious weed mitigation to our regular trail maintenance. We’re currently finishing the final singletrack segment of the Foy’s to Blacktail Trail near the bottom of Blacktail Mountain, making more than 40 miles of non-motorized trails in the system.
What’s something you’ve learned from your work that you wish more people knew?
Volunteering is immensely rewarding. It can be hard work—our trail volunteers help clear trees, dig drains and spray weeds—but it comes with the reward of being part of a team, one that’s making great things happen. Our events, and all the great community events you see across the valley, only happen because people donate their time to staff aid stations, host booths, pour beer, and flag courses. Volunteers make the events profitable, and also have a great time doing it.
What kinds of assistance would help your organization?
The trails we all love to use don’t maintain themselves. FTBT uses a combination of volunteer labor and hired trail crews, so we’re always looking for extra hands and more funding.
We are working to grow our Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund to $1 million, so that we can permanently care for this trail system. You can make financial contributions to our general fund or endowment fund, participate in the Great Fish Community Challenge, enter one of our donation raffles, or sponsor or participate in our races—the Herron Half/10k/5k and the FTBT rail Marathon. Every dollar works toward our goal of permanent trail maintenance.
How would you ideally like to affect the Flathead Valley?
We are continually working to be a sustainable organization that not only takes care of our own trails, but promotes other outdoor recreation opportunities available throughout the Flathead Valley. We’re proud to be a founding partner in the Flathead Trails Association, which brings many great organizations together to preserve and advance trails in the Flathead Valley.
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