POLSON – Lifetime resident and local businesswoman Tali Duford has long dreamed of making the downtown area more accessible from the city park on the Flathead River.
Her plan to find a way to traverse a steep grass hill from Riverside Park to serve as a downtown gateway recently came to fruition with the construction of the Armed Forces Memorial Staircase.
“Nobody could get what I was talking about,” said Duford, who owns First Resort, a downtown clothing store with her father Jim.
“We needed a way to get into town (from the park) that wasn’t hazardous like that intersection over there,” she said, motioning to U.S. Highway 93 just south of the Armed Forces Memorial Bridge.
The seven-foot wide, 36-step concrete walkway starts in the parking lot and leads to First Street West – a block off this resort community’s Main Street.
It opens up a previously underutilized parking area and, with four landings and a center handrail, provides easy accessibility instead of a rarely used steep grass climb.
While the $25,000 stairway isn’t yet completely paid for, construction was completed in time for the recent annual downtown Cherry Festival.
“I’m thrilled,” said Duford, who first broached the idea three years ago. “It just came together nice.”
The project ties in with the rededication of the bridge at Freedom Days in 2007.
Wide landings are positioned for the placement of benches for resting and she hopes to install an archway at the top of the structure along with a downtown business directory and map.
Sizable donations were received from the Armed Forces Memorial Fund, the Polson Business Community, Wal-Mart and Super 1 Foods. There were also plenty of in-kind contributions, like some of the concrete work done by Treasure State and handrail and plaque work completed by Mercer Welding and D and D Customs.
Paver plaques, at a cost of $200 each, to honor those who served in the Armed Forces will be installed on the front of each step to help pay for the remainder of the staircase, but any contribution is appreciated, Duford said.
New crosswalks are being painted across First Street at the top of the stairway and flowers donated by Duford’s sister Cherie, who owns Mission View Greenhouse, also will adorn the hillside.
A dedication will be scheduled later this year.
“Everybody has been amazing. I’m so pleased with it,” she said. “People can’t believe it. They think it is just wonderful that now you can get into town.”
If you are interested in helping with the Armed Forces Memorial Staircase project, an account has been established at Glacier Bank in Polson.
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