MISSOULA – Missoula volunteers recently contributed over 1,125 hours of rehabilitation service work on the University of Montana M Trail, according to project leader Dr. Steve Gaskill.
“Thanks to the efficient and hard work of many volunteers, the project list for the summer is rapidly being checked off,” said Gaskill, a professor emeritus of integrative physiology and athletic training at UM. “I anticipate that we will finish the summer list with three more sessions. We will be doing fall work to put in more benches and to stage materials for repairing the M platform next spring.”
One of the most popular trails in Montana, the M Trail rises 620 feet above campus over 3/4 of a mile using 13 switchbacks. It reaches the 100-foot-high M on Mount Sentinel.
Crews have repaired the M Trail under Gaskill’s supervision since summer 2020, including fixing steps, extending switchbacks to more sustainable grades, reducing a few trip hazards and improving water drainage.
All the old wire fence was removed, hauled away and replaced with safer, more attractive wood fencing. He said remaining projects for this summer include dirt work at switchbacks three and five and installing more fencing at switchbacks three, five and eight.
“Steve is the driving force behind this whole trail renovation – the super volunteer!” said Marilyn Marler, UM’s natural areas manager. “Without his dedication and skills, UM and the broader community would not be benefitting from the thousand hours of volunteer work to keep the M Trail functional and beautiful.”
When the weather cools, the project will shift gears to installing some memorial benches. These will be the last memorial benches for the zig-zag trail, but there will be future memorial opportunities at the M itself. Gaskill and UM also intend to stabilize the M and provide better sitting areas for visitors to take in the view.
To sign up for future volunteer event notifications, please email Gaskill at MTrailVolunteer@gmail.com. If you would like to donate to the ongoing maintenance and repairs of the M Trail, visit MTrail.org.
Marler said the University is indebted to lead sponsors Run Wild Missoula, REI and the Montana Recreational Trails Program.
Gaskill said many people donated hours, but some were dedicated repeat volunteers who contributed more than 10 hours each to bring the M Trail back to life. Those include Alexandria Albers, Greg Arciello, Stephanie Dolan, Chuck Dumke, Andy Edelstein, Rob Gordon, Miles Knotek, Brandon Leonard, Kate and Mike Lindner, Daniel Mason, the Montana Trail Crew, Charles Palmer, Markus Paminger, Lindsay Richards, Run Wild Missoula, UM ROTC, the Sansalone Family, Geoff Showers, Mark Stelling, the UM football team, Bill Watson, Lewis YellowRobe, Axel Yount and Chad Yurko.
Contact: Marilyn Marler, UM natural areas manager, 506-544-7189, firstname.lastname@example.org.