by Dennis Gaub
Don Christensen sees a direct connection between his Billings business and his current role as president of Billings TrailNet.
As owner of Yellowstone Fitness, his business offers rooms for cardiovascular and weight workouts, hot tubs, a steam room, sauna, a basketball court, a yoga studio and fitness classes.
That wide array of activities geared towards getting people healthy and keeping them that way brings in what Christensen calls “fitness people,” and many of them are not year-round gym rats. They go outdoors. And they bicycle, walk, run, walk their dogs and otherwise enjoy Billings’ growing trail system.
“It works hand and hand,” he said, and he believes other businesses can benefit from a partnership with Billings TrailNet.
“Not only are we giving back and making Billings a better place, it is a great way to reach active people as a marketing tool.”
“I would say any local business giving back to Billings (through Billings TrailNet) —gets their name in all of our marketing, including our two main events: Ales for Trails, the Tour de Fleur.”
Christensen was elected to the organization’s board in 2015, then was vice-president for a couple years and became president this year.
“I’m an avid trail rider,” Christensen said, explaining that his cycling involves both road biking and mountain biking. As he cycled around Billings, the experience of being on trails that came to an end prompted him to get involved in Billings TrailNet to help seek funding that will expand the network.
“I would just like to see them (trails) safer. Build them off highways.
“My passion is the Skyline Trail, which will connect Black Otter Trail to Zimmerman Park. That’s our big push.”
“It’s going to be the most visible trail; everybody will see it,” he said, noting that on a clear day, outdoor enthusiasts will be able to see three mountain ranges from the trail.
“It’s a beautiful view. It’s going to be one of our prettiest trails when complete.”
The biggest goal of all is to complete the Marathon Loop, which will give Billings and Yellowstone County 50-60 miles of connected trails. That, Christensen said, will be a “real asset” the community.
Also on Billings TrailNet’s roadmap for the future: connecting Coulson Park, with its historic ties to Billings’ founding as a river port before the Northern Pacific Railroad arrived, to Riverfront Park. And then on to the Josephine Crossing subdivision off Mullowney Lane in southwest Billings.
“We have little stumbling blocks here and there. Our goal is to get all those pieces connected. Then, you’d have miles and miles.”
And that would cement Billings’ reputation for not only having the best urban trail system in Montana, but one of the premier trail systems of any city in the U.S.