Many Montanans are springing into adventure by taking to the trails. However, changing weather conditions are making it hard to maintain some of the public hiking spaces in Helena.
Officials from the Prickly Pear Land Trust one of the best ways we can best preserve our trails is by walking through muddy puddles instead of tiptoeing around them.
Changing weather conditions are great for outdoorsmen, but can spell trouble for the hiking grounds.
Snowmelt and rain make paths muddy, which makes it difficult for hikers to figure out where exactly to step.
"Its pretty treacherous in some places, so, you've got to be careful," said Michael Houlton, an avid hiker.
Houlton and his dog, Lou, have been making the trek up the Mount Helena Trailhead for years. So, he knows you need to wear special gear, like cleats, and adhere to certain rules, but he sees folks disrespecting the area all the time.
"The conditions right now are not the best. It’s still wet and its getting muddy and we just want to encourage people to stay on the trail. When you see a muddy spot go through the muddy spot," said Nate Kopp, Project Manager for The Prickly Pear Land Trust.
The Prickly Pear Land Trust posted on Facebook reminding hikers to stay on the designated path. When people don't, it widens the trails, which causes erosion. Erosion can severally damage a trail.
"We can always go fix something that's happened in the trail, but we don't want to spread those problems to other sections. Widening a trail, we then have a bigger problem in the future. It also kills the vegetation alongside the trails and we all like walking next to green grass and plants," said Kopp.
Kopp says if it’s too muddy, it’s best to turn around and take advantage of paved walkways, which are located throughout the city.
However, if you're an avid outdoorsman like, Houlton, and you've just got to feel the soil beneath you're shoes, you can take his approach and give uninformed hikers a friendly reminder.
"It’s maddening, but the best thing is to talk to people and let them know. And if you talk to them and you're friendly with them, I think that helps."
Not only does making new paths degrade natural resources, but some trails cross private property.
In order to keep those landowners happy and that space public, the Prickly Pear Land Trust says imperative to keep on the path.