Plans to build a large RV park with rental cabins on a tract of land in West Glacier are moving forward even as park officials and residents raise concerns about potential impacts to the quaint village community fringing Glacier National Park, which already bustles with tourists and traffic during the summer months.
Glacier Park Inc. is seeking to build a campground with 25 rentals cabins and 102 recreational vehicle spaces on a 178-acre forested tract of land on River Bend Drive, just west of the main village, girded by an oxbow bend in the Middle Fork Flathead River, southwest of Glacier View Golf Course.
Plans include building a new water and sewer system, with a 150,000-gallon water reservoir. GPI owns the land immediately surrounding the site as well, and no other private landowners abut the property.
The Flathead County Planning Board will hold a hearing on the project at 6 p.m., April 12 at its offices at 40 11th St. West, Conference Room 200 in Kalispell. The property is zoned Middle Canyon in the Canyon Area Land Use Regulatory System.
The proposal comes less than three years after GPI acquired the property when it purchased the West Glacier land holdings from the Lundgren family in July 2014. The deal included the West Glacier Mercantile and other holdings in West Glacier as well as cabins in Apgar in Glacier National Park.
Bill Lundgren and his cousins were the principal owners of the 32-room West Glacier Motel and Cabins, the West Glacier Restaurant and Bar (known locally as Freda’s), the West Glacier Mercantile, the West Glacier Gift Shop, and other guest services, including a gas station.
The sale also included 3.8 acres of inholdings within Glacier National Park in Apgar — the Apgar Village Lodge, the Cedar Tree Gift Shop and staff housing units in Apgar and West Glacier.
The properties are situated on approximately 200 acres at the west entrance of Glacier National Park, and the sale of the land to GPI was perhaps the most alarming element of the deal for local residents who worry about development.
“We have been very concerned since the sale went through, and we are keeping a close eye on any proposed development,” said Ann Thamert, a year-round resident in West Glacier. “I don’t know what the future will bring, but we are hoping that we can have some influence on the proposal.”
Ron Cadrette, vice president of Glacier Park Inc., said if the development is approved it would be rolled out in two phases, with construction getting underway by late summer or early fall.
Glacier National Park officials have already commented on the proposal, raising a range of issues, including the need to follow state water quality regulations and policy within the Flathead Wild and Scenic River corridor; install bear-proof dumpsters and garbage containers; fence off the sewage lagoon and spray field so they avoid becoming an attractant to bears and other wildlife; install night sky friendly exterior lighting to reduce artificial illumination at night; and consult with Climate Smart Glacier Country to minimize the carbon footprint of the development.
“Our biggest concern is regarding traffic impacts,” according to the letter written by Glacier Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “The proposal indicates that they intend to direct this additional traffic onto Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is already highly congested during peak summer season and the (Environmental Assessment) concluded that this level of traffic will result in an adverse level of service at the intersection of River Bend Road and GTSR.”
Mow urged Flathead County to consider requiring the development of an additional access point to Highway 2 or Belton Stage Road to disperse congestion.
According to a traffic impact study, under full development the project would generate 361 new daily vehicle trips in the area.
Cadrette said GPI has addressed traffic concerns by proposing the development of walking and bike paths connecting visitors to the village of West Glacier, as well as by offering a shuttle service.
“Obviously traffic is a concern, and we share those concerns, which is why part of the plan calls for establishing biking and walking paths to take cars off the road,” he said.
Because the property is located outside of Glacier National Park, the agency has no jurisdictional authority, but its resources are affected by development outside of the park, according to the letter.
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