July 17--Local agencies are trying to put Butte's recreational opportunities on the map -- literally.
They're developing interactive maps and Smartphone apps that will help locals and visitors alike more easily access area trails.
It's part of a group effort to showcase the recreational opportunities that surround Butte, and to get on board with the state's outdoor tourism objectives like other municipalities have done.
"Due to our (industrial) history and our preoccupation with it, we forgot to tell people that Butte is a great recreational hub," said Justin Ringsak, the Butte-Silver Bow County online and public information administrator. "We're between Yellowstone and Glacier. We have the best access to the Continental Divide Trail, Maud S Canyon, Homestake trail, Thompson Park, even some areas residents don't know about. We've seen there's a demand for outdoor recreation. We need to share this with our visitors."
The county, along with the Forest Service and chamber visitors' bureau are spearheading the effort.
Butte-Silver Bow is in the fledgling stages of developing a trails and outdoor recreation map on the city-county website. The map includes in-town trails like the Copperway Trail and the Alice Overlook Trail, trails for motorized and non-motorized use near Homestake and Thompson Park, and trails as far away as Wise River and the Tobacco Root Mountains.
"We're really on a kick here to make people visiting here realize (these trails) are here, and make them accessible," Ringsak said.
Ringsak added that the website is a constant work in progress and he's always open to trail suggestions from the public.
"Here we don't have to deal with the crowds you see in Glacier, Yellowstone, Bozeman and Missoula," he said. "It's nice and quiet -- maybe a little too quiet."
Newly available from the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is the Whitetail-Pipestone Motorized Recreation Visitor Map, accessible on the Smartphone app Avenza.
It's a free phone-friendly map that marks trails by usage type, campgrounds, picnic sites, rock climbing sites and trailheads in the Whitetail-Pipestone area. The app was developed with grant money from Polaris, the company that manufactures snowmobiles and ATVs.
"We are getting more requests from the public for information digitally," said Jocelyn Dodge, the Butte-based recreation forester for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. "It's a way for people who want to start planning trips, and are coming from out of the area, to know what there is and where to go. Our forest alone has about 3,000 miles of trails."
The forest has also developed a series of four Continental Divide Trail maps available through Avenza, which cover Thunderbolt Mountain to Konda Ranch, Nez Pierce trailhead to Homestake Pass, Homestake Pass to Rocky Ridge Trailhead and Rocky Ridge Trailhead to the Mill Creek Highway.
The Butte Convention and Visitors Bureau interactive map accessible through its website covers much of the same terrain as the Butte-Silver Bow and forest maps. And not quite finalized but coming soon is a mobile app tour of Uptown Butte, its businesses and Butte's urban trail system.
"Our visitors are geo-tourists," said Maria Pochervina, director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and executive secretary of the Tourism and Business Improvement District. "A geo-tourist likes to really entrench in the culture of an area and the outdoor recreation. Visitors to this area want to be more in the outdoors, more on the trails, enjoying the scenery throughout our state. We need to make things more accessible to our visitors on a mobile device.
"We have some of the very best biking and hiking trails around that you can find anywhere. In Butte you're literally minutes away. You can go out and experience nature at its very best."
(c)2014 The Montana Standard (Butte, Mont.)
Visit The Montana Standard (Butte, Mont.) at www.mtstandard.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services