Flathead County to Develop County-Wide Trails Plan

By Beacon Staff

The Flathead County Parks and Recreation Board is developing a plan for a county-wide system of pathways to connect all the valley’s major population centers to each other, as well as Flathead Lake, Glacier National Park, Flathead National Forest, and state and county parks.

The pathway system will include on-street pedestrian and bicycle routes as well as separate off-street pathways.

An advisory committee, People for Athletics, Travel, Health and Safety (PATHS), has been formed and charged with the task of developing a long-range master plan for county trails. The committee has developed preliminary goals and met with representatives from state and federal agencies, county departments, municipalities and other interested groups. Base maps have been created, and some trails have been proposed to start discussion.

But PATHS needs public input as well: The group has planned four community workshops next week to solicit ideas and comments from the public, which will be used to guide the committee’s future work.

The goal of the pathways, organizers say, is to offer an alternative route, connecting homes with schools, parks, offices, and shopping areas; upgrading roads with bike lanes and wide shoulders to make them much safer for bikers and walkers; promoting access to public lands; and promoting health and fitness. The National Park Service Rivers and Trails Program is assisting the county in the planning effort.

The county parks and recreation department as a whole is undergoing a 20-year master plan and, as far as I can tell, making a very genuine effort to involve the public in the process with meetings and an online survey. Take advantage of it, folks!

The workshops will be held at the following locations and times:

– Flathead Valley Montessori Academy (Somers) – Nov. 17, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

– Columbia Falls Junior High School – Nov. 18, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

– Creston School – Nov. 19, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

– Kila School – Nov. 20, 7:30 – 9:30 p.m

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