Seven Miles of Gateway to Glacier Path Completed

Nonprofit still fundraising for welcome kiosk and additional trail mileage

By Clare Menzel

Even before the official Oct. 14 opening of seven miles of trail stretching between Coram and West Glacier, pedestrians and bicyclists were making good use of the new path, a sign of how excited the community is for this trail, which is over five years in the making.

“It’s a big deal … It’s getting used quite a bit already,” Val Parsons, leader of the nonprofit group Gateway to Glacier, said. “People pushing their kids in strollers, biking, and walking—up there, (you’re traveling) in the woods or on a road with cars going by you, so it’s kind of a big freedom.”

The new segment of trail connects people to a two-mile trail built in the 1990s that links Hungry Horse and Coram, and Parsons said the next step is to expand the trail’s reach to Columbia Falls by 2018. A grand opening celebration is planned for Oct. 14 at 12 p.m. at Glacier Distillery in Coram.

It cost more than $800,000 to construct the new seven-mile stretch, a price tag that included about $58,000 set aside for county maintenance, according to Parsons. Some help came from a Montana Department of Transportation Community Transportation Enhancement Program grant that matched 13 percent of funds raised.

Currently in the works is a welcome kiosk, which Bigfork metalworker Jeffrey Funk is crafting from the old steel bridge in Kalispell. It will have a map, serve as a meeting place, and be installed in Hungry Horse by the end of October.

Parsons said the group continues to look into funding options for connecting Kalispell to Columbia Falls by trail, and for building a separate path along the Middle Fork Flathead River, in partnership with Glencore, the owner of the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company.

Though “parts of the trail are getting done, we have many more missions,” she said.