Private Shoreline Versus Public Beach

By Beacon Staff

By Oct. 10, Whitefish voters will have their say – whether to levy funds to purchase property to enlarge City Beach or let the parcel be sold on the open market for possible development.

The .44-acre parcel of undeveloped, wooded land spans 100 feet of pricey waterfront that sells for about $36,000 per foot. The property just south of the City Beach boat launch is zoned for overnight rentals and single-family condo-type units.

Over 4,000 Whitefish voters received ballots by mail in late September to direct the City in the property’s purchase. Appraised at $3.3 million, which is also the current real estate listing price, the property can be purchased by the City for $3.1 million. If the ballot is approved, a 20-year mill levy would generate the dollars to add acreage to City Beach.

A 39 percent increase in beach use in five years prompted concerns over parking, boat launch congestion, and limited public beach space on Whitefish Lake. The property, loaded with apple, cottonwood, white birch, western larch, and willow trees, would add needed beach frontage. It could also include footpaths, picnic areas, and parking as well as more convenient access for canoes and kayaks launching to float down the Whitefish River. Parks and Recreation Director Dan Keyes expressed an interest in making the beach area “safer for kids and more efficient for boaters.” If the ballot is approved, Keyes says the department plans to solicit public comment to aid in designing use for the property.

Currently, Whitefish Lake has only three public accesses—Les Mason Park, Whitefish Lake State Park, and City Beach. The latter two offer the only boat launches. Ballots returned to the City by Oct. 10 will determine whether the property becomes public access or private beachfront.

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