Doug Wicks, who for more than 20 years was the foremost champion of Rivers Edge Trail, passed away of natural causes on August 29, 2018.
Doug Wicks may not have been one of the founders of the committee that started Rivers Edge Trail but he was unquestionably its most passionate advocate. Doug joined the recreational trails committee in the early 1990s. That group started the trails system by building the very first segment of trail. It would soon be registered as Recreational Trails, Incorporated, a 401c3 non-profit organization.
Doug not only joined the group, but he also became an independent contractor with the City Planning Office as their Trail Planner. Not long after that, Doug became and remained President of Recreational Trails, Inc. until he opted to step aside a few years ago. From that point on, Doug sought new trail extensions, secured rights-of-way, secured commitment from the appropriate governmental organization (City of Great Falls or Montana State Parks) that they would accept and maintain the new segment once it was built, secured sufficient funding, hired contractors and completed the new segment. For the next 20 plus years, Rivers Edge Trail was expanded segment by segment until the entire trail system contained more than 50 miles of trail surface.
In his vision, Rivers Edge Trail would not only offer an extensive system of trails, but it would also offer a rich variety of trail experiences. Most of the urban trails that Doug constructed hug the river and are ADA compliant. What is more, Doug was an avid advocate for enriching the urban trail experience with a wide variety of painting and sculptural art. He was determined to connect trail segments into loops where ever possible that would offer more than an “out and back” trail experience.
In addition, the rural trails he promoted range from pleasant, gently sloping riverside hiking and biking trails to very challenging black diamond single-track segments for trail runners and skilled mountain bikers. That rural system on both the North and South shores is now used each year by NorthWestern Energy for their Beyond the Dam mountain bike race.
Doug was able to accomplish so much because of two vital aspects of his life. First, the life-long love and support of his wife, Karen. She not only supported his work, but she was also actively involved in it. For many years, Karen served as secretary for our Foundation. Karen provided indispensable help in preparing presentations for Doug, setting up and conduction the annual Blues and Brews fundraiser, preparing the Foundation’s annual report and fundraising letter and maintaining the Foundation’s website.
The second source of Doug’s success was the man himself. Building outdoor experiences were less what Doug did and more what Doug was. In later years, Doug and Karen spent the colder months of the winter on the Gulf beaches in Texas. Not being prone to lollygag, Doug spent many of his days on the beach picking up trash, some of which he and some local friends used to build sculptures on the beach. Seemed that where ever he went, caring for the out-of-doors was an irresistible urge. So much so that his last moments in life were spent grooming and improving Rivers Edge Trail.