If the county’s Zoning Board gives a nod and other plans pan out, Butte will have its first “hostel” by next May, when bikers and hikers will once again abound along the Continental Divide through southwest Montana.
Hostels provide short-term, shared lodging for lower costs, typically for rented bunk beds in a dormitory type setting with a common area for socializing and a restroom and shower to clean up.
They’re popular with outdoor enthusiasts in Europe and are catching on in the U.S., with 14 listed in Montana by the state’s Office of Tourism, with most in and around Glacier Park, two outside Yellowstone National Park, two in Missoula and one in Helena.
Butte biking enthusiasts Gina Evans and Sarah Borduin want to turn part of a former boarding house on West Park Street into the “Bike Hike Hiatus Hostel.” They’re seeking a special use permit from the Zoning Board on Thursday and county staff is recommending they get it.
It would cater primarily to people who are hiking or biking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and Great Divide bike route, which mirror each other in these parts.
“There is not a business like this in Butte,” said Evans. “We would be the one and only and it would bring a lot of economic value.”
“One thing Butte can strive for as a community, like Anaconda and Helena have done, is to become a CDT community,” she said.
Evans founded Linked Adventures, which offers mountain bike rentals and shuttle service from Butte, Anaconda and other places to nearby trailheads, five years ago. It’s been a success, she said, and would work well with the new hostel.
Borduin and her husband, Michael Borduin, own the former boarding house at 502 W. Park Street and other real estate through Blacksteer Canyon Properties LLC. The house is now four rental apartments.
The plan is to turn two of the units into hostel with 16 to 20 bunk beds in two or three areas, with a common space for socializing and two restrooms with showers. The nightly rate would probably be around $35, with the bicycles housed in a secure garage.
The location is ideal for their target market, Evans and Borduin say, because bikers and hikers want to be within pedaling or walking distance of a post office, medical care, eateries, breweries, bike shops and a place to get groceries. All are nearby.
Guests would include retirees or millennials making foot or bicycle treks through the area who are seeking alternative lodging, social interactions and shared adventures.
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And the numbers of long-distance, non-motorized trail users have been increasing the past five years, Evans and Borduin say. Parking is very limited where the fourplex is located, making the units hard to rent sometimes.
“I would like to market it to people who are not bringing cars to park on Park Street,” Borduin said. “I think it will be a great thing for this building.”
Sleeping in bunk beds in a shared setting isn’t for everyone, but to many bikers and hikers, it is ideal if they want a hiatus from camping without spending big money.
“These people don’t want to spend $145 a night,” Evans said. “They just want a place to clean up, rest up, recharge and say, ‘let’s go to the brewery, let’s go get some food, I need a new rim, I need new hiking boots.’ This is their lifestyle.”
Trail users pass through Butte from several directions, including through Sheepshead, Browns Gulch, the Highlands through Roosevelt Drive, across from Fleecer Mountain and from the Wise River area. Travel months here are May through late September.
The proposed location is in a multi-family residential zone, so Evans and the Borduins need a special-use permit from the Zoning Board. In a lengthy application for one, they address some possible concerns, including guests booking into the hostel and not leaving.
That won’t be allowed, Evans said, and can be controlled if needed through keyless code technology that allows card keys to work at check-in and expire at check-out.
County planning staff included their own findings after reviewing the application and said a primary concern is the potential for increased traffic in the neighborhood.
But it noted that the target market and Evans’ plans to shuttle many of the guests to and from nearby trailheads “should alleviate the majority of any additional traffic.”
Staff said guests might be arriving in the early morning or late evening hours, which isn’t typical of a residential neighborhood.
“That being said, the property is located within one block of the Vu-Villa bar and restaurant, which can at times have significant traffic at night,” staff said. “The neighborhood is most likely used to activity late at night.”
Staff concluded that the hostel would have a minimal impact on the neighborhood and recommended the zoning board approve it with a few conditions, including any remodeling meeting building and health requirements.