Bigfork looks to extend Swan River Trail network

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A Bigfork community group is working to extend the village’s 2-mile Swan River Trail by six miles to create a connected recreational trail network.

The Swan River Nature Trail begins at the north end of Electric Avenue. The 2-mile long trail was created from a former county road that led from Bigfork to the Swan Valley.

The Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork is working to expand that path by 6.2 miles for non-motorized recreational use. March 22 at 6 p.m. the foundation is hosting a Community Kick-off Meeting for the public at Glacier Bank in Bigfork to share its vision for the project.

Paul Mutascio with the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork said the plans for the trail system are in the early stages.

“The idea of building a better trail network has been talked about for years — but I think we all realize the time has come,” Mutascio said.

The goal of the meeting is to get community feedback on the idea of expanding the Swan River Nature Trail by creating a set of trail loops that connect existing and future trails on the north and south sides of the Swan River with Sliter Park, downtown Bigfork and other area trails.

The current path overlooks the Swan River, the village’s dam and the popular “Wild Mile” section of the river.

The community foundation’s draft plan includes creating a boardwalk along to the village’s historic power plant which would connect Sliter Park to the system. It also includes a proposed foot bridge near the dam that would make a 2-mile loop beginning and ending in downtown Bigfork.

Most of the network would be located on the more than 270 acres of PacifiCorp property east of Bigfork along the south and north sides of the Swan River. The land has provided recreation opportunities to generations of Bigfork residents and visitors. In its 2015 Recreation Plan review, PacifiCorp expressed an interest in allowing more community-based recreation proposals.

Mutascio said as Bigfork has grown and tourism has solidified as the driving force in the village’s economy, the community has recognized a need for more and better trails.

“So many people use the Swan River Nature Trail, we are afraid it is going to get ‘loved to death,’” he said.

Mutascio said to make the system easy to use for guests and locals, there will be trail signs unique to the network. Trials leading outside of town will weave through Bigfork forests. Some trails will hug the side of the Swan River while others will highlight the valley’s views.

Reporter Katheryn Houghton may be reached at 758-4436 or by email at khoughton@dailyinterlake.com.

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