Kalispell Hosting ‘Deep Dive’ to Help Plan New Downtown Trail

Roundtables, rail car tours scheduled for June 4 to 8

By Justin Franz
A Mission Mountain Railroad freight train switches cars in downtown Kalispell on Nov. 3, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

After years of planning and work, the residents of Kalispell will have a chance to tell local leaders how they would like to see the city’s core area developed once two miles of old railroad is removed next year.

During the first full week of June, from the 4th to the 8th, the City of Kalispell, the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, Alta Planning and Design, and KLJ Engineering are hosting what has been dubbed a “Deep Dive,” a series of events to let the public have their say in how a new rail trail will be designed.

“Our goal is to flesh out some concepts of what the trail will look like and once we get some ideas we’ll flesh them out with a series of community meetings over the rest of the summer,” City Planning Director Tom Jentz said.

During the weeklong event, the public will be able to share how they think the rail trail from Woodland Park west to Meridian Road along the former Great Northern Railway right-of-way should be designed. The owner of the tracks, BNSF Railway, has filed to abandon the rails through town, and trains will stop running into Kalispell once the new Glacier Rail Park is completed east of town off Whitefish Stage Road.

Highlights of the event include an open studio drop in at the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce’s office at the old Great Northern depot in downtown. From Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., citizens will be able to stop by and see possible design concepts and share their thoughts. There will also be a series of evening roundtable events from 5 to 7 p.m. On Monday of that week it will be held at Kalispell Brewing Company; on Tuesday it will be at SunRift Beer Company; on Wednesday it will be at Kalispell ImagineIF Library; and on Thursday it will be at Kalispell Center Mall.

On that same Thursday, June 7, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the public will have the chance to ride railroad “motorcars” through downtown along the route of the proposed trail. Jentz said a motorcar club will be providing the rides and that people can make a reservation for the limited number of seats available starting on May 31 at kalispellcoreandrail.com.

“The motorcar rides will give people a chance to see part of town they normally don’t get to see,” Jentz said.

Finally, there will be a design presentation on Friday, June 8, from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the old Herberger’s Junior Store at the Kalispell Center Mall.

In April, the Kalispell City Council selected Alta Planning and Design and KLJ Engineers to design and construct the new rail trail. Removal of the old railroad, engineering and construction of the new trail and the rebuilding of a number of cross-streets through the core area is expected to cost approximately $4 million.

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