Building bridges

Lewistown Trails enhancement underway
Friday, November 23, 2018

Mark Machler, left, and Fish, Wildlife and Parks Fisheries Biologist Clint Smith stand by the future location of a bridge that will connect Machler’s land to FWP land.

Photos by Charlie Denison

Mark Machler stands in front of an 80-foot bridge that will be installed on Big Spring Creek, connecting Machler’s property with the Fish, Wildlife and Parks property immediately downstream from the water treatment plant. The other bridge will be installed right below Calvary Cemetery.



Two bridges are ready for installation to enhance the Lewistown Trail System. 

One bridge will be installed directly below the Calvary Cemetery to connect trail users to the Lazy KB Fishing Access site, allowing them to cross over the Crowley ditch.

The other bridge – an 80-foot “monstrosity,” as Mark Machler calls it, will connect Machler’s property to the Fish, Wildlife and Parks land immediately downstream from the water treatment plant.

“Rather than have people walk all the way to the stockyards, people can go over the bridge and go through my property, walk the full length of it and hop across the creek,” Machler said.

Lewistown Parks and Recreation Director Jim Daniels said he is excited to see the finished product, but he knows he has to be patient.

“We are still in the process of getting it laid out,” he said. “It’s all weather-related.”

Dennis Cripps of DC Excavation and Construction is currently working on the project.

Many people are involved in making these bridges part of the trails, Machler said.

“My son-in-law, Tony Miller of Judith Gap Oil, is involved,” Machler said. “He’s going to donate his big wrecker to help get the big bridge where it needs to be.”

City Manager Holly Phelps said she is pleased to see the project progressing and believes the bridges will be a very positive addition to Lewistown Trails.

“Kudos to Friends of the Trails for all their hard work making this happen,” she said. “Kudos also to adjacent property owners Mark Machler and Fish, Wildlife and Parks. They’ve been excellent to work with.”

FWP Fisheries Biologist Clint Smith said he looks forward to this project coming to fruition, although he can’t say for sure when it will be ready and accessible to the public, as there are a number of circumstances, including the fact that the FWP land needs to be cleaned up. The project, nevertheless, is coming together, and he’s happy to work with Machler and others to make it happen.

“We’ve been happy to work with the City and with Mark, who has been very generous in the restoration aspect,” Smith said.

Smith said he believes the public will enjoy the new trails and new bridges once the construction is complete.

“People will be able to walk across the Lazy KB fishing access site, cross the highway, get onto Machler’s, walk through the willows, walk across the fence and onto a rustic walking path within 30 feet of the channel,” Smith said. “From there, people can walk down to the Carroll Trail fishing access site. That’s the vision: to tie it all together. We’re all trying to figure out how to do it.”

Smith said he has heard talk that the new bridges could create a “Brewery Flats 2.0,” but he said that’s not necessarily the case. However, he said he looks forward to this becoming “another feather in Lewistown’s cap.”

“We’re going to have public access right in the heart of this pristine, perfect riparian habitat while maintaining its natural character,” Smith said. “We’re going to have three to four contiguous miles of creek that will be publicly accessible. It’s really special to have that much public access to a resource such as Big Spring Creek. It’s a gem.”

There is still much that is in the works, Machler said, but it’s coming together.

“We are all willing to work together to get it done,” he said.



What advice would you give to a high school graduate?