When Rick Douglass planned a mountain bike park on the Montana Tech campus two years ago, his mind’s eye saw an easy trail around the perimeter and tougher, technical trails in the middle.

That’s not exactly what is taking shape.

“I expected a bunch of mostly straight trails,” Douglass said this week on the park, which is being built just west of the Natural Resources Building at Tech. “Instead I got some that really test your skills.”

But that doesn’t mean those trails aren’t ride-able by mountain bikers of all abilities. And the perimeter trail that was just completed is merely a down payment on a series of about 10 miles of trails and obstacles that will give Tech students, faculty and all of Butte a biking playground.

The project is now well under way, with the perimeter trail just getting completed as winter looms. Douglass, a biology professor at Tech who is semi-retired, began working on the proposal two years ago and last year it got the go ahead. Tech will offer mountain biking classes in the park.

It was helped by $34,000 in trails money from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which was funded in a federal highway bill. That money was matched with many hours of volunteer labor by the Highlands Cycling Club to lay the groundwork for the trail system in the park.

Now that base trail is done and open for use after a first summer of construction.

Zac Cavaness, owner of Land Tech Montana, has been building the trails over the past several weeks. He said it was nice to be allowed to build the trail where it best fits on the landscape. And Cavaness said the project has been a change of pace from building trails on U.S. Forest Service land, which his company does a lot of.

“We’ve got a blank canvas here and lots to work with,” he said. “It’s a treat to build something specifically for bikes.”

The perimeter trail starts to the west of the Tech campus on a gravel park lot. From there it heads up and down, crossing the small hills in the area and taking a couple switchbacks. It heads along the western side of the 30-acre park, through a small patch of conifers and then turns east along the northern end of the parcel.

“We tried to keep it really mellow, with something for everybody, but twisty enough where it’s fun,” Cavaness said.

He’s still putting some final touches on the trail to pack it down and make it firmer. Next year, Cavaness said he’ll begin building the interior trails. They’ll include some jumps, obstacles and slalom features. And there will be a pump track where riders can carry momentum to push themselves up the other side.

Douglass said Tech will apply for $45,000 from FWP next year to continue to develop the park.

The topography on the property lends itself to a bike park, said Gary Vodehnal, trails coordinator for the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, who was on the site this week riding. He said with some planning they will be able to build Butte a quality mountain bike park that’s accessible from town.

“You can create a really nice trail system here,” he said. “You’ve got a gold mine here when it comes to recreation.”

— Reporter Nick Gevock may be reached at nick.gevock@mtstandard.com

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