A rally for Rails to Trails

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Summer’s officially here — time to hit the trails. Whether you’re a runner, a stroller, a cyclist or a rollerblader, the Great Northern Rails to Trails of Northwest Montana is a fine place to start.

The trail in Kila is in great shape now that culverts were installed and the trail bed elevated where it had been previously prone to washouts after heavy rains.

Flathead County Economic Development Authority donated the gravel to do the job and students with Flathead Valley Community College’s Heavy Equipment Operator Program did the hauling and compacting. Knife River completed the asphalt and concrete work and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Recreational Trails Program funded the project.

Flathead County’s Trail Plan, which was adopted in 2010, is in the process of being updated. The plan encompasses all the trail organizations in the valley.

Plans on the table for the Great Northern Trail include extending the pedestrian path from its Meridian Road trailhead east along the railroad bed through the core of downtown Kalispell. The trail will extend past Woodland Park and cross U.S. 2, terminating at the new Glacier Rail Park now under construction near Seventh Avenue East North.

(You can watch a short video on the Inter Lake’s website, www.dailyinterlake.com, of a miniature railcar tour along the proposed corridor. Just type “rail tour” in the Search window on our homepage and click on the article titled “Rail tour highlights future Kalispell Trail.”)

Creative possibilities for the new Kalispell corridor are being bandied about. Not only do planners envision a walking district with shops and eateries but, one day, a new sledding hill and amphitheater at Woodland Park.

The long-range vision for the Great Northern Trail is to connect Kalispell to Columbia Falls and, ultimately, Flathead Lake to Glacier National Park. What a wonderful world it would be! The more connected our communities are, the better. Pedestrians and cyclists would be safer than ever before with such an expansive designated trail system.

In the Great Northern Historical Trail/Rails to Trails of Northwest Montana spring newsletter president Mark Crowley mentions that donations to the organization are used, for the most part, as local match for larger grants and that showing local support is crucial to obtaining outside funding.

The timing for broadening our network of trails is now. There’s a lot of excitement in the air, so consider making a donation to your favorite, hardworking, nonprofit trail organization.

If you’d like to donate to Great Northern Rails to Trails of Northwest Montana, you can mail a check to Rails to Trails, P.O. Box 1103, Kalispell, MT 59903; or honor a loved one by ordering a personalized plaque, brick or tile to grace the trail for all time. This summer, Rails to Trails plans to install several on the Dern Road, Somers and Kila gift walls.

A new event, Bike to the Beach, will take place Saturday, July 28. Bicyclists will gather at 11 a.m. at the Meridian Road trailhead and bike 10 miles to Somers Beach, stopping for fun and refreshments midway. Folks can also choose that way station as their starting point, then proceed to Spoke & Paddle in Somers to decorate their bikes before parading to the beach for more fun and games. Costumes and bathing suits are encouraged!

Check back later with the Inter Lake for more details.

Carol Marino is the community editor of the Daily Inter Lake. She can be reached at community@dailyinterlake.com

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