Thanks to a collaborative effort, a new community fishing pond will be coming to Columbia Falls next year.
Crews broke ground on the pond at River’s Edge Park on Oct. 29. With digging complete, the focus will now be re-vegetating the banks and constructing a path around the pond. Visitors are asked to keep clear of all posted and fenced areas, maintain pets on leashes and yield to construction vehicles when entering and exiting the parking area.
The pond, slated for completion by summer 2019, will provide the community a family friendly and accessible location for fishing, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which will stock the pond annually with westslope cutthroat trout while promoting outdoor education and fishing activities.
The City of Columbia Falls and Flathead Land Trust received a $100,000 grant in 2017 from the LOR Foundation to “work collaboratively to enhance livability and build upon the strengths that make Columbia Falls unique,” FWP states.
The Flathead Land Trust is a nonprofit dedicated to protecting Northwest Montana’s land and water legacy through community-based conservation, while the LOR Foundation is committed to improving quality of life in the Intermountain West through locally driven solutions.
“The goal of the grant was to help the community develop a project that increases access to recreation, protects clean water, and promotes the quality of life in Columbia Falls,” according to the press release.
A working group featuring members of the business community, nonprofits, Columbia Falls City Council and others organized to help decide the best use of the grant funds. The group agreed that a fishing pond surrounded by a walking trail would create an ideal amenity for families at the city’s largest park, River’s Edge, which spans more than 20 acres near the Flathead River.
“The city is extremely grateful to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for its initial pursuit of a fishing pond in the Columbia Falls community and the partnership with the Flathead Land Trust for coordinating and funding the project,” Columbia Falls City Manager Susan Nicosia said.
“The fishing pond will be a tremendous asset to the community and a great addition to River’s Edge Park,” Nicosia continued. “The recent completion of the 3rd Ave. E. connector trail provides a short walking access to River’s Edge Park.”
FWP committed to funding part of the project through the Bill Kamps Memorial Fund. The City of Columbia Falls is coordinating the project, led by Nicosia and Public Works Director Tyler Bradshaw.
Schellinger Construction donated the excavator and operator hours for developing the pond, while Hamilton Excavating donated time to help haul fill from the project site. Also, Sands Surveying donated services, administration of permits and other expertise; Applied Water Consulting donated expertise and services to obtain several permits; and JD Thinning donated services to clean up the streets during the hauling process.
“There were many individuals and groups invested in bringing family fishing to Columbia Falls,” said Mike Hensler, FWP Region 1 fisheries manager. “We hope and expect that when completed, this pond will provide an opportunity for youth and first-timers to start on a path to become lifelong anglers and learn about the diverse fisheries in Northwest Montana.”