Funding in place for Whitefish Trail expansion

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Tyler Hoppes of Whitefish mountain bikes on the Beaver Lake Trail on Wednesday afternoon in the Whitefish Trails.. Sept. 4, 2013 in Whitefish, Montana. (Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake)

Whitefish Legacy Partners now has all the money it needs to expand the Whitefish Trail into Haskill Basin, the organization said Friday.

The first phase of the Close the Loop Project will connect Whitefish to Whitefish Mountain Resort with 5.5 miles of new trail accessed by two new trailheads. The new route will allow users to visit overlooks and scenic boardwalks while exploring the pristine cedar groves of Haskill Basin. Trail construction will begin this spring.

The Lower Haskill Trailhead will be located one-half mile up Reservoir Road, immediately adjacent to the city of Whitefish water treatment facility. The Upper Haskill Trailhead will be located on Big Mountain Road on Whitefish Mountain Resort property. In partnership with Glacier Nordic Club, the upper trailhead will have groomed cross-country ski trails accessing existing groomed trails in Haskill Basin.

“This project took years to orchestrate, and we feel overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support,” Alan Myers-Davis, Whitefish Legacy Partners director of development, said in a press release. “It is amazing how quickly everyone came together to raise the final match.”

Whitefish Legacy Partners secured $150,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, $90,000 from the Montana Recreation Trails Program and $11,333 from the Flathead National Forest Resource Advisory Council for the project. The grants required a $200,000 match that was raised locally through the Haskill Match Community Challenge.

The total project budget includes money for long-term operations and maintenance and for a professional survey of the trail corridor. In addition, trail easements from the city of Whitefish, Iron Horse Homeowners Association, Flathead Land Trust, F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Co., and Winter Sports Inc., the parent company of Whitefish Mountain Resort, have made the project possible.

A ground-breaking ceremony and celebration is planned at Bonsai Brewing Project from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 9. Shuttles to Lower Haskill Trailhead will leave Bonsai at 5:15 p.m. and will return after a short ceremony.

The Whitefish Trail is the anchor project of Whitefish Legacy Partners and the result of collaborative partnerships providing public access and recreation on open lands in the urban interface of Whitefish. To date, Whitefish Legacy Partners and city of Whitefish have established more than 36 miles of a recreational trail system accessed by 10 trailheads.

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