My average commute from work on Main Street to home is six blocks, give or take one or two depending on if I need to get a cup of coffee or breakfast. Living and working in downtown Kalispell has many perks, especially since I can either walk or ride my bike to work. I’ve even cross-country skied to work after a big snowstorm and then later boasted about getting “first tracks.” It makes life a lot more enjoyable to use the walk to plan my day as opposed to fussing around in a car. And on the return trip at the end of the day, it’s very relaxing to cruise through the streets of my neighborhood, usually running into friends on their bike commute home. As the owner of a business on Main Street, my proximity makes it especially easy if the need arises to return to work or, especially when my son was an infant, make a quick trip with him asleep in the stroller for a meeting.
Either powered by my own two feet or on a bike, rarely do I have to venture from downtown Kalispell. There is a grocery store within walking distance and my son’s stroller has ample room for groceries, although I’ve learned the hard way not to place breakable items like eggs in the seat next to him. In recent years, more and more downtown businesses have opened offering more and more shopping and dining options in addition to the longtime mainstays. A trip to the library is an easy one to make when it’s just blocks away and provides an impressive array of programs for kids and allows me to stockpile on books and music. In summer, downtown presents a great event lineup like Picnic in the Park and Thursday!Fest, and one cannot help but stay home when you know great music and good fun is just a few blocks down the street.
Quality of life in Northwest Montana is often, and rightly so, pitched as one of the reasons people are attracted to this area. People often cite Glacier National Park or Flathead Lake as two places that drew them to live here. Those were certainly the two major attractions for me, but as I’ve lived here over the years I realize that it’s not just the big, wild areas that bestow an unparalleled quality of life; it’s also our small towns and neighborhoods that offer these unique and welcoming attributes that make it so that when we talk about evening commutes, we’re usually talking about the bike paths and public trails that take us to some place fun and not gridlock traffic.
With the Downtown Plan and the Kalispell Core Area Redevelopment plans in the works to increase pedestrian activity and access, these types of benefits like biking to work will only increase. I know that with temptations like good pastries and ice cream on Main Street that I could use the new bike path to help work off those treats.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.