HELENA – Helena leaders say they have already done substantial fire mitigation work on a newly acquired property on the city’s south side.
City crews have been working on the roughly 74-acre property, formerly owned by the Whyte family. They have focused on thinning potential fuels, especially where the land borders on homes.
“There are a lot of residents in that area, and to be able to go in there and provide some more defensible space was really important,” said Kristi Ponozzo, Helena Parks and Recreation director.
Crews have also removed some hazard trees and chipped them.
The property sits adjacent to Mount Helena Park, along the LeGrande Cannon Trail. While it was owned by the Whyte family, it has long been open for public use. Earlier this month, Prickly Pear Land Trust reached an agreement to purchase the land, then donate it to the city to be incorporated into the open lands system.
Ponozzo said the Whyte property hadn’t received extensive treatment for wildfire risk, and it needed mitigation work as soon as possible.
“As soon as we did finally get the property, we started working on an assessment for the property,” she said.
The city will likely continue fire mitigation work on the property throughout the summer and into the fall. Later in the year, they will start asking for people’s input on what else needs to be done on the land.
“Working collaboratively, we’ll have a public process to determine recreation needs, trail needs, trailhead needs,” she said.
Ponozzo said, over the next three years, the city could spend an estimated $243,000 in maintenance on the Whyte property – mostly for forestry but also for weed management, reclamation and trail work.