Wilderness advocates, environmentalists and wildlife proponents can continue to fight paving the North Fork Road but visitor statistics reported by Glacier National Park prove that something has to give.
The age-old argument against paving the road sounded like something from the movie “Field of Dreams” – “if you build it they will come.” The argument always said if you pave it they will come. Paving to those who opposed it meant more traffic – more pollution – more threats to wildlife, etc.
Well those in opposition have successfully blocked paving, but now is the time to ask at what cost?
According to park statistics, the visitation through the Polebridge Ranger Station (and remember not everyone who travels to Polebridge continues on into the park) has increased from a year-to-date total for September 2014 to September 2016 from 54,852 to 81,981. That’s with no paving.
Traffic through the Polebridge Ranger Station in October 2016 shows an increase of 94.5 percent compared to October 2015.
Is the road safer? No! Is the pollution from the dust from the road decreasing? Park officials and environmentalists oppose monitoring the dust generated from the road and its impact on the speed of snow melt on the glaciers. The park says it’s a budget problem. Environmentalists say the problem is only raised by those who want to pave the road. So while global warming alarmists always say that science is on their side – here, these people have no scientific evidence to prove that the dust from the road is not harmful to the glaciers, air or water quality and they don’t want any scientific evidence gathered that might prove them wrong. So we don’t know.
The Center for the Study of Snow and Avalanches in Colorado reports that dust landing on snow (like the dust from the road) significantly increases the rate of melting.
No bears have been killed by a car on this road in spite of the overwhelming increase in traffic – so let’s drop that argument.
The North Fork Road in spite of improvements by the county over the past few years is simply not designed to handle this much traffic.
Can the county financially afford to increase the number of times it grades the road each year? Can the road survive and continue to handle this increase in yearly traffic without collapsing and costing county taxpayers a fortune to rebuild?
Can safety be guaranteed without the installation of guardrails, etc.?
Numbers don’t lie. This road has got to be paved and paved now or the blood of dead wildlife; drivers killed in accidents; and the loss of the glaciers – due to worsened air and water quality – will be on those advocates who follow and advocate a thoughtless agenda that is not backed up by science or facts.
Maybe this paper should ask these questions of county officials, road engineers and especially the scientists at the Center for the Study of Snow and Avalanches in Silverton Colorado what they think.