The Flathead County Planning Board on Wednesday voted 5-3 in favor of a proposed RV park with rental cabins on a tract of land in West Glacier, despite concerns from residents over an uptick in traffic, noise, as well as impacts to wildlife and the neighboring village community.
The hearing centered on a proposal by Glacier Park Inc., which is seeking to build a campground with 25 rental cabins and 102 recreational vehicle spaces on a 178-acre forested tract of land on River Bend Drive, just west of the main village, girded by an oxbow bend in the Middle Fork Flathead River, southwest of Glacier View Golf Course.
The RV park features 63 acres of open space, 67 acres of residential and 47 acres for the campground. Approximately 23 acres of the area is developed land.
Plans include building a new water and sewer system, with a 150,000-gallon water reservoir. GPI owns the land immediately surrounding the site as well, and no other private landowners abut the property.
The proposal comes less than three years after GPI acquired the property when it purchased the West Glacier land holdings from the Lundgren family in July 2014. The deal included the West Glacier Mercantile and other holdings in West Glacier as well as cabins in Apgar in Glacier National Park.
The sale also included 3.8 acres of inholdings within Glacier National Park in Apgar — the Apgar Village Lodge, the Cedar Tree Gift Shop and staff housing units in Apgar and West Glacier. The properties are situated on approximately 200 acres at the west entrance of Glacier National Park, and the sale of the land to GPI concerned residents from the outset.
Gail Pauley, a West Glacier resident, said she had concerns about a lack of community input in a project that could fundamentally alter the quaint village community.
“There’s too many unknowns right now,” she said.
Glacier National Park officials commented on the proposal in writing, raising a range of issues, including the need to follow state water quality regulations and policy within the Flathead Wild and Scenic River corridor; install bear-proof dumpsters and garbage containers; fence off the sewage lagoon and spray field so they avoid becoming an attractant to bears and other wildlife; install night sky friendly exterior lighting to reduce artificial illumination at night; and consult with Climate Smart Glacier Country to minimize the carbon footprint of the development.
“Our biggest concern is regarding traffic impacts,” according to the comment by Glacier Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “The proposal indicates that they intend to direct this additional traffic onto Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is already highly congested during peak summer season and the (Environmental Assessment) concluded that this level of traffic will result in an adverse level of service at the intersection of River Bend Road and GTSR.”
Ron Cadrette, vice president of Glacier Park Inc., said if the development is approved it would be rolled out in two phases, with construction getting underway by late summer or early fall.
The project still must receive approval by the county commissioners by May 17, according to zoning regulations, though a specific date for that hearing has not yet been set.