Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Missoula County plans to seek a share of funding tied to the Federal Lands Access Program to create a new path to a popular recreation site, overlay several rural roads and replace a bridge leading to National Forest lands.

Applications for the competitive program are due this week.

Among the projects listed by the county, the funding could create a new paved trail from Highway 93 to the Blue Mountain trailhead. The county believes the trail could relive congestion at Blue Mountain's often crowded parking lot.

“The trailhead serves thousands of users annually, and a trail connection to the U.S 93 trail would offer an option for users to ride to the trailhead rather than driving,” the county wrote in its letter of support. “The trail could offer some relief to the parking congestion in this area.”

Shane Stack, the county's director of Public Works, said the trail would extend around .70 miles and cost roughly $800,000. The county could apply a match to the project if needed.

“This is the only one I think we may have any kind of match on,” Stack said. “We'll use trail bond funding on that acquisition if we need to.”

The county also listed improvements to Six Mile Road near Frenchtown among the projects it hopes to fund through the federal program. That project would include three miles of an asphalt overlay at a cost of roughly $4 million.

Pattee Canyon would also receive an overlay if funded, costing around $3.5 million, Stack said. Both projects provide public access to Forest Service lands.

“The applications are ready to go. They've been submitted to the federal land manager,” Stack said. “Four of our projects are National Forest projects, three in the Lolo and one in the Flathead.”

The county also is seeking around $5 million in funding to replace Cold Creek Bridge over the Swan River.

“The project will replace a bridge that is undersized and at risk of being washed out during higher flows of the Swan River,” the county said.

Stack said the county will know if the applications are successful by late summer.