Big Victory, Small Package
Big Things Come in Small Packages
“Sometimes our success comes not in thousands of acres, but in thousands of hearts that are touched.”
Stephen Johnson, executive director of the Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) in Bozeman, MT, said that the conservation of the last 1.8 acres of Burke Park represented a “big victory” for the community despite its small size.
Burke Park is one of the most heavily used parks in Gallatin County, with more than 100,000 visitors each year. The park has been a favorite of hikers, runners, dog-walkers and sightseers for more than 35 years.
A Historic Endeavor
Burke Park was the land trust’s first conservation project in the early 90s with 40 acres transferred from the Burke family to the City of Bozeman in 1993. The recent acquisition of the final 1.8 acres is the “crown jewel,” Johnson said.
“It completes a project that really was the impetus for GVLT’s founding.”
Johnson also said that this final acreage is important because it includes the summit which is the destination for most peoples’ hikes. The newly acquired acres also include an important trail link from the city to the mountains, he said.
“This is the heart of Main Street to the Mountains trail system.”
Bozeman’s Scenic Jewel
Johnson said that Burke Park has incredible scenic values, and can be seen from US I-90, Main Street and other state highways around Bozeman.
“It has tremendous views across the urban forest, downtown Bozeman, the broad valley, and out to the mountain ranges that ring the city.”
At the highest points in the park, visitors can enjoy 360-degree views surrounding Bozeman. Johnson said the views from Burke Park have been a unique selling point for people considering a move to Bozeman. “It’s just a terrific juxtaposition of a main street with a natural park.”
The park also boasts significant habitat diversity. According to one report submitted by the City of Bozeman, there are more varieties of wildflowers documented in Burke Park than in Yellowstone National Park.
Johnson said the mixed grassland of Burke Park is “spectacularly beautiful during wildflower season.”
Although the Burke family now lives in Hawaii, Johnson said the family retained this small parcel to assure that the family “would always have a piece of dirt in Montana”
Over the years, they realized that this special place needs to be a permanent part of the park that honors their parents. The Burkes will use the proceeds to acquire a residence, hopefully very nearby.
The completion of Burke Park also provides good closure for the land trust, Johnson said. “I feel a deep pleasure to put the finishing touches on the project that was one of the first for GVLT,” he said. “As always, we stand on the shoulders of many former staff and board members.”
Story by Tina Deines
Photo by Ted Lange, Gallatin Valley Land Trust