Residents who live near a proposed RV park in West Glacier spoke out against the project at a meeting of the Flathead County Commission on Tuesday over concerns about traffic, pollution and the impact to wildlife.
The developer, Glacier Park Inc., is seeking to build a campground near the Middle Fork Flathead River with 25 rental cabins and 102 recreational vehicle spaces on a 178-acre forested tract of land along River Bend Drive, just west of the West Glacier village.
In April, the Flathead County Planning Board voted 5-3 in favor of issuing a special use permit for the project, but the three-person county commission still has the final say. On Tuesday, the commission heard from neighbors of the proposed development and GPI officials. The commission was originally scheduled to vote on the permit on Tuesday, but decided to continue the matter until Friday in order to review an independently produced traffic study that was provided to them during an hour-long public comment period.
During the comment period, residents raised numerous concerns about pollution, safety and the impact to wildlife, but the biggest issue centered on vehicle traffic. Residents noted that during the busy summer months, huge lines of cars queue up in the corridors to Glacier National Park and a new RV park at the southern gate would only exacerbate the issue.
“People trying to access this RV park will only add to the horrible congestion we experience in West Glacier during the summer,” said Alan Koss, a local resident.
Residents also took issue with a traffic study produced by a contractor for GPI, specifically because it was conducted in October, when traffic through West Glacier is considerably less. GPI officials, however, noted that while traffic patterns were studied in October, the final report utilized data from the busy summer months. Others also worried about what would happen if an RV got into a collision at the intersection of Going-to-the-Sun Road and River Bend Drive, potentially slowing traffic down even further. Residents were also worried about what might happen if the area along River Bend Drive needed to be evacuated due to a forest fire.
Some residents urged GPI to construct another road to connect the proposed RV park with U.S. Highway 2, but officials suggested it was cost prohibitive. Any new road between the highway and RV park would require a new crossing or bridge over BNSF Railway’s busy tracks.
Terry Divoky, a longtime West Glacier resident, said additional traffic and the environmental impact of the RV park would be a detriment to the little community’s character.
“You can only add so many fish to a fish bowl before that bowl starts to deteriorate,” she said. “The only one who will benefit from this project is GPI but everyone else in the community will suffer.”
Rebecca Baker, a spokesperson for GPI, said the company understands the community’s concerns but that they believe the new RV park would not be a hindrance to West Glacier. She said the company plans to offer a shuttle bus from the RV park to Apgar in an effort to reduce traffic to and from the park.
“We all have a passion for Glacier National Park and the area that surrounds it and we believe that this development will enable us to share this area with others,” Baker said. “We want to work with the community to make this project work.”
GPI hopes to begin construction on the RV park later this year and open it in 2018.
The proposal for an RV park 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.