New C-Falls Park Purchase Approved

By Beacon Staff

The Columbia Falls City Council earlier this week approved the purchase of new riverfront park property down in the area known as “Mosquito Flats,” just east of the Habitat for Humanity project area.

Columbia Falls City Manager Bill Shaw said Wednesday that the normal procedure for something like this is to assemble a citizen committee to create a master plan, rather than to have the city council assume direct responsibility for conceptual planning. He noted an example of other city parks getting playground equipment after the city contacted all residents within a short distance of the park – forming a committee from those who responded.

The new park’s committee could be in place this fall, with a master plan possibly resulting before the 2008 spring thaw.

Sixty people checked in at the council meeting earlier this week, with 30 taking the opportunity to speak for or against the park. As with most city business of this nature, the discussion was not without controversy.

Complaints against the purchase primarily revolved around two things: fiscal responsibility and the fact that the riverfront land is obviously in the flood plain. On the former, Shaw noted that state Sen. Dan Weinberg’s comments referenced similar controversy when Whitefish bought the property for City Beach many years ago, noting that in 30 years, the new Columbia Falls park property’s million dollar price tag will likely be 10 times higher. Regarding the flood plain, several citizens noted that it was better to have a park that gets flooded out rather than a subdivision of homes.

For comparison, Whitefish’s expansion of the City Beach area is expected to cost more than $2 million – for additional land far smaller than the new Columbia Falls park.

The transaction is expected to close at the end of August.