Bigfork: a little town with big plans

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Community leaders in Bigfork have begun the process of gathering together the townsfolk to get ideas about what they want their town to look like in future decades. It’s a citizen-driven effort that aims to gauge what residents want, and the suggestions are piling up, from more bike trails and year-round activities to better landscaping and sidewalks.

What’s refreshing to learn is that there’s no agenda to this civic exercise of mapping out community development, but rather, as one planning committee member put it, a place “for gracious conversation to happen.”

Those who have been tuned into Bigfork in recent years know the tenacity of these village residents. They’ve successfully grown their community without finding the need to become an incorporated city.

When the county Solid Waste District wanted to close Bigfork’s green-box garbage collection site a few years ago, residents went to bat to keep their facility, even agreeing to pay a special fee for that service. Bigfork now has one of the nicest, best-kept green-box sites in the valley.

When highway officials pitched the idea of a more modern, bigger capacity two-lane bridge to replace the 106-year-old one-lane bridge across the Swan River, Bigfork folks stuck to their guns and got what they wanted. The future reconstruction of the iconic bridge will retain the quaint one-lane design because keeping that cultural aspect of Bigfork was so important to its citizens.

And when there was an attempt earlier this year to thwart a new rodeo in Bigfork aimed at capitalizing on the village’s big Fourth of July crowd, Bigfork once again dug in its heels and successfully got the go-ahead to proceed with the rodeo.

Without any organized government or even a town council, Bigfork has taken on huge community events in recent years, such as the Spartan Race. Next year the Montana Dragon Boat Festival returns to Bigfork, with the Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce taking the lead in organizing it. The community has benefited greatly in recent decades from numerous nonprofit groups such as the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork. All of these people care big-time for Bigfork.

Bigfork is a magical place that welcomes both throngs of visitors and locals wanting a place to nurture their artistic side with theater and art galleries.

We hope as the town’s community development plan progresses, its leaders will keep an eye on retaining the special character of this charming village by the bay.

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