Ewald Wellness Trail officially dedicated

Thursday, July 11, 2019
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Courtesy photo
Left to right, Beartooth Billings Clinic Foundation Past President Clay Cummins, Governing Board President Mitzi Vorachek, and John Clayton of BRTA speak at the Bo &Sarah Ewald Wellness Trail Dedication; plaques on the boulders near the Jim Hoiness Healing Bridge were unveiled following the presentations.

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Photo by Don Redfoot
View of Mount Maurice from the top of the Wellness Trail.

The “Bo & Sarah Ewald Wellness Trail”, named in honor of generous local Beartooth Billings Clinic benefactors, was dedicated at a ceremony at the trailhead, June 27.  The “Jim Hoiness Healing Bridge”, the anchor structure at the trailhead, was dedicated as well. The gravel surfaced trail and locally designed custom-built pedestrian bridge are located on the west side of the Beartooth Billings Clinic medical campus. 

Major construction of the trail, which creates a segment of the greater Red Lodge Rocky Fork Trail System master plan, was completed in the fall of 2017 by YRU Contracting, Inc. out of Cambridge, Idaho.  Additional minor improvements took place last summer. 

Total project cost, close to $80,000, was funded through grants and donations. Other funding partners in the project include Montana FWP Recreational Trails Program, Beartooth Billings Clinic Foundation, USDA, City of Red Lodge, Carbon County, BRTA, and a number of private donors, as well as several years of Fun Run proceeds. Karen Hoiness Neff’s gift was dedicated to the design, fabrication and installation of the bridge in memory of her late husband, as well as general trail construction.  

Approximately 1,000 feet in length, the Ewald Wellness Trail offers an elevation gain of close to 110 feet, with benches located near the lower section, the middle and at the top of the bench. Additional amenities include an interpretive panel, custom designed trash enclosure and a pet waste station at each end of the trail. The trail is open for non-motorized pedestrian or bicycle use. The trail does have some steep slopes and sharp curves; bicyclists are urged to use caution and walk bikes on the steep, sharp sections of the trail.

“The concept of this trail was first discussed over 10 years ago when Bo and Sarah secured the naming opportunity for a trail on the campus via a generous donation to our new building campaign.  Over the past 10 years, work on the project encompassed completion of the comprehensive grant application, exploration of feasible site options, geotechnical review, design/engineering, bidding process, and finally, construction”, noted Maggie Karas, Beartooth's Community Relations Coordinator. “We worked with a number of agencies, contractors, and funding sources to make the Ewald’s vision a reality,” Karas added. The trail is not ADA compliant at this time.

This trail not only provides a safe route from the bottom of the Rock Creek valley up to the top of the West Bench, it also offers health maintenance, active transportation and recreational opportunities to Beartooth and The Willows staff, patients, residents and visitors, as well as the general public.  MDT's plans for the 2022 reconstruction of Broadway Ave from Robinson Lane (Family Dollar) to Two Mile Bridge Road include a multi-use pathway along the west side of the road, which will connect downtown Red Lodge to Beartooth Billings Clinic; the Wellness Trail connects that path with the West Bench at Red Lodge Country Club Estates for a grand loop.

Users of the trail will find year ‘round wildlife viewing opportunities as bear, moose, deer, wild turkey, Sand Hill Cranes, fox and bald eagles -- and their offspring -- have all been spotted near the trail. If you live and work below the bench, you may not often get to a vantage point where you can see the expansive vista of the Beartooth Front and the Crazy Mountains. The Wellness Trail is one way to get that fix. Likewise, you can capture a glimpse of the Rock Creek valley as it snakes its way up to majestic Mount Maurice and Town Point—especially brilliant on a crisp fall day under bluebird skies. Members of the Facebook social media group Montana Rocks! occasionally place artistically painted inspirational rocks along the trail for trail users to find. According to their Facebook page, members do this “to spread smiles and happiness throughout our beautiful state.” 

Beartooth Recreational Trails Association (BRTA) and the Red Lodge Parks, Trees and Recreation Board are discussing extending the trail north to connect directly to Corner Park-- City parkland located at the top of the West Bench in the Diamond C Links residential area, as well as farther to the south along Pine Ridge Road.