Hamilton continues to work on idea of trail along MRL right-of-way

Posted at 5:45 PM, Jan 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-16 19:45:23-05

HAMILTON – Hamilton Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf says the city is continuing to work on ways to utilize the Montana Rail Link right-of-way as a way to extend the Bitterroot Trail through the city.

But he says MRL is asking the city to resolve a couple of key questions that have developed since the idea was first proposed last fall.

The Ravalli County Park Board has been discussing the idea of utilizing the MRL right-of-way that runs along the east side of Hamilton as the route for a walking trail which would help complete a “missing link” in the Bitterroot Trail system.

The railroad hasn’t been actively used for several years, and there’s discussion of being able to share a portion of the right-of-way so walkers and bike riders could go through the city from Veteran’s Bridge on the north to the south side of Hamilton while avoiding traffic.

County and city leaders recently met with MRL, with the railroad giving the go-ahead to explore ways to solve a couple of issues. Farrenkopf told county commissioners during a joint meeting this past week that MRL would like the city to find a way to provide some fencing to keep trail users off the tracks, and how to provide some separation for the businesses that operate and lease space on the right-of-way.

“So that’s also kind of a concern, and then with the different leaseholders on the access that we’re proposing,” Farrenkopf said. “We have a few people that are looking at that to come up with a really creative way to maybe connect the north and south end of town with that path.”

If acceptable plans can be worked up, then attention would turn to how to pay for the trail improvements.