They’re at it again.
The same couple who donated millions of dollars worth of land that is now Volunteer Park in Lakeside is one step closer to making an additional contribution that would double the park’s size and further expand public access to Flathead Lake.
Last week Lakeside residents Margaret Davis and Bruce Ennis presented their preliminary design plans for an expansion of the county-owned Volunteer Park to the Flathead County commissioners, who then signed a preliminary property transfer agreement. The additional land is yet to be purchased by Davis and Ennis, but if the deal goes through, the additional grounds would grow Volunteer Park to nearly 5 acres.
The couple plans to acquire the land, make the necessary improvements to transform it into a park, and grant the land to the county — similar to what they did when founding the park in 2009 and again in 2014.
“We know in the last 10 years the county has grown considerably … and there’s high demand for all the age groups to get access to the lake,” Davis said.
The prospective parcel is directly adjacent to the current park, and would include additional parking, a large grassy zone, an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant walkway, and most importantly — an expansive beach. To do so, they’ll remove multiple existing structures on the land, along with a number of docks in poor condition.
“We have the swim dock in the first phases, so the idea here is to keep this as a big, open accessible beach,” landscape architect Bruce Boody said. The removal of the docks will also lessen the maintenance burden on the county, which will be responsible for the upkeep of the expanded park.
Commissioner Pam Holmquist suggested the couple consider adding another large pavilion area, similar to what exists in the current park, to help buoy the county’s maintenance budget through rental fees.
“It’s good to have some mechanism to create some income to help with the maintenance because as you know, we’re all strapped with maintenance in the county,” Holmquist said. “I’d like to just have a serious look at that … I support the project either way.”
Commissioner Randy Brodehl also noted an expansion could also result in an increased need for parking in Lakeside. The preliminary park design has 41 spaces, and Ennis said there was a possibility of adding more to accommodate the likely increase in usage and traffic. But apart from a few suggestions the commissioners were in support of the project and expressed their gratitude to Davis and Ennis for their contribution to the Lakeside community.
“I think it’s a good project and I do appreciate you guys and all you’ve done so far,” Holmquist said.
Davis and Ennis were originally inspired to create Volunteer Park after realizing how limited Flathead Lake public access was in Lakeside. Before the development of Volunteer Park, Lakeside did have Lakeside Community Beach, located north of the county’s Bierney Creek boat ramp, but that location had limited parking and steeper terrain, Davis noted in a previous Inter Lake article.
“In that boat ramp, kids were swimming, boats were launching. The corner … was stopped with trailers backing down into this boat ramp and we said, is there all there is in Lakeside for public access? You’d have to be blind not to see the problem,” she said.
The couple acquired a 1.5-acre parcel in 2009 and transformed that space into Volunteer Park. They donated the waterfront park, valued at $3 million, to the county and it opened Aug. 13, 2010, offering 190 feet of shoreline access. In 2014, they transferred the second phase of the park to the county, adding another 82 feet of shoreline access. As long as Davis and Ennis are able to acquire the property adjacent to the existing park, the next steps will be acquiring permits from the county and Montana Department of Transportation.
“I’m glad you’re enthusiastic and open to the acceptance of this addition to the park. It’s a big deal for us. It’ll be a big deal for Lakeside,” Davis said. “With the first and second phases of the park, there are 273 feet of lakeshore frontage. With this addition, there will be approximately 243 more feet for a total of about 517.”
Reporter Mackenzie Reiss can be reached at (406) 758-4433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.