Polson to Celebrate Downtown Improvements

By Beacon Staff

POLSON – A town is certainly recognized by the central image it portrays.

And that is especially true for a lakeside burg like Polson, where summer visitors more than double the city’s approximate 5,000-person population.

As the effort to modernize and improve the downtown here moves forward, the so-called Main Street Project has given the area more than just a fresh coat of paint.

“We feel that Polson, Montana is a happening community. Businesses are opening,” said Paul London, who owns Polson Motorcoach and RV Resort north of town. “We have a downtown that has a new sense of beauty to it.”

New sidewalks fashioned with curb cuts for the handicapped and bump-out areas to protect pedestrians seeking to cross are the initial improvements one sees when turning off U.S. Highway 93 onto Main Street.

The facelift includes sidewalk benches, hanging flower baskets and trees, bike racks and new streetlights.

There are now four-way stops downtown and slowing down traffic has made it easier for diagonally parked vehicles to back out and safer for potential shoppers to make their way around the city.

“Because of the beauty of the land here – to have that reflected in our downtown is very important,” said Karen McMullen, who owns Treasure State Mercantile downtown.

Support for the effort is not unanimous. And it came with a cost to downtown property owners, who were assessed additional taxes in a Special Improvement District for up to 15 years to finance about $700,000 of the project, which included replacing aging water lines under the streets.

That’s about $600 a year for 25 feet of Main Street frontage.

Partly because of the response of an initial get-together at the end of last summer, streetscape volunteers have put together a “Light Up the Town – Celebrate Our City Center” celebration Friday, July 8, to revel in what it has been accomplished.

“We’re proud of it,” said London. “We want to celebrate.”

At noon the Mission Valley Aquatic Center will hold a ground-breaking ceremony for their long-awaited eight-lane, 250-yard facility at the top of Polson Hill and then bring a portable water slide downtown for the youngsters.

The popular Big Sky Mudflaps highlight the afternoon and evening festivities, which will open three blocks of downtown streets to foot-traffic only.

Opening ceremonies with a dedication of a memorial bench to “Special Citizen” Barry Webb begin at 3:30 p.m.

At a cost of $35 or $50, 172 pavers will be sold on each of 12 downtown corners to help finance the streetscape project. Memorial benches also are available for $1,700.

Sidewalk sales are being encouraged and local food and drink vendors will sell their wares. There will also be a farmers’ market and plenty of family-friendly activities, McMullen said.

A street dance from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. wraps up the day.

“Small Town – Big Lake,” organizers said, is open for business. Contact McMullen at 883-8040 for more information.

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