Billings Career Center student helps with the Skyline Trail project

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Carrie Carpenter and Billings TrailNet’s executive director, Kristi Drake
by Tom Howard Carrie Carpenter spends her mornings a West High, her afternoons at the Career Center and many hours after school helping to develop the Billings trail system. Like many career-oriented high school juniors, she has begun visiting college campuses, looking for a program that provides the fit for her future. During a recent trip to the University of North Dakota, she checked out UND’s extensive engineering programs, met the women’s golf coach and even ventured into the raucous student section to watch a hockey game. “I loved UND,” she said. “I got to talk to the girls on the golf team, and everybody was so nice. People there sure love their hockey.” Despite her busy schedule, Carrie is gaining some real-world experience as project coordinator for phase 1 of the Skyline Trail project, a major addition to the Billings trail system. Working in cooperation with Billings TrailNet, Sanderson Stewart, the city of Billings and several other organizations, Carrie is playing a key role in the process to add signage, park benches and other infrastructure to the Skyline Trail. Beginning in early January she has been visiting nearby parks and taking notes, studying how signage can enhance the experience for pedestrians and cyclists. Signs to be placed along Skyline  Trail might point to the various mountain ranges visible from atop the rims. They might provide historical context by mentioning how Native Americans used the area, and they could alert trail users on the presence of birds and other animals. Carrie enthusiastically volunteered when she was presented with the opportunity for conducting an after-school independent study project. “I said I’m all for it,” she said. “I like using the trails here, and if I can help making a new one, I’m all for it.” Playing with Legos helped Carrie develop a sense of how things work. But she became fascinated with the wider world at an early age. “I was always interested in space, how the planets move and satellites,” she said. “I’d love to design satellites. It’s such a fascinating field, and I’ve been learning more about it.” Besides engineering, Carrie is also interested in the university’s aviation and aerospace program. She is one of Montana’s top high school golfers. Last fall she won three events and helped the Golden Bears squad placed second in state. She hopes to continue her golf career in college, possibly UND. Kristi Drake, executive director of Billings TrailNet, is thrilled to have Carrie working on the project. “Her help is a huge relief,” Drake said. “This volunteer work means so much to our community and our organization. It warms my heart to have met somebody with such a big heart who is so willing to share her skills.” Carrie isn’t being paid her many hours of work. But she’s happy for the opportunity. “I’m being paid in watching my community grow,” she said. “I will be able to use this trail for a long time.”