BOZEMAN, MT — Hyalite Canyon is one of the most visited nature recreation areas in Gallatin Valley, if not the most visited, but signs throughout the park were recently found to be stolen.
The canyon offers something for everybody, from the falls to the trail systems like Lick Creek and History Rock.
So when people start stealing large directional signs, that becomes a problem, not just for those enjoying the trails but for those maintaining the canyon, and they say it is a problem that goes further than Hyalite.
“The sign when you turn off of 19th to come up to Hyalite Canyon,” says Hilary Eisen, a board member with the non-profit Friends of Hyalite, “the Lick Creek trailhead sign is missing. The History Rock Trailhead sign has been stolen twice.”
It’s a list that, to Eisen, just seems to keep growing.
“The sign right at the—just down the road from us here that used to say 'Custer-Gallatin National Forest,'” Eisen says. “Approximately 10 of the signs marking different trail junctions were also stolen.”
It’s a growing problem of property disappearance and Eisen says it goes across all public lands.
With more than $2,000 in stolen signs, double that counting the labor to make and install them, Hyalite just has stark examples.
“That same amount of money can be used to keep somebody on the trail crew for another two weeks to a month,” Eisen says.
“I think everybody in Bozeman loves Hyalite,” says Liz Johnson, a Bozeman community member who spoke with MTN News last year when one of the large Hyalite Canyon signs was stolen before.
Johnson, who loves the area and likes to be crafty, made the replacement sign from scratch.
Liz’s sign is among those that vanished, but, like everything else she’s done, Liz says it is just as important to stay positive.
“You know, I was naturally bummed that somebody took it but I guess I wasn’t also surprised,” Johnson says. “I didn’t put in any sort of special anchor holes to prevent theft.”
As for Eisen, she says there haven’t been any solid clues yet as to who swiped the signs but she hopes to raise awareness of the issue, one plaguing more public lands across the state and the country.
“The Forest Service should be able to do its job and you can’t do your job if you don’t have the money and the resources to do it,” Eisen says.
All the while, while the Friends look for answers and the Forest Service work to replace what was stolen, Liz says that positivity is still key.
“It is beautiful and they love and they should keep trying to take care of it even if other people aren’t doing as good of a job,” Johnson says. ”I feel like at least you can lead by example.”
If you know anything that might be able to help return the signs or find out who took them, the Friends of Hyalite say you can contact them, the U.S. Forest Service, or the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.