Two prominent backers of the Foy’s to Blacktail Trail were awarded the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce’s “Great Chief” award during the organization’s annual banquet on Nov. 14.
Jim Watson and Carol Bibler were awarded the 48th Great Chief Award, the chamber’s oldest and most prestigious honor. The couple has run the Spring Brook Ranch since 2001 and has been heavily involved with the creation of the Foy’s to Blacktail Trail between Kalispell and Lakeside.
The chamber also handed out awards for its businesswoman and businessman of the year, Kalispell Brewing Company co-owner Maggie Doherty and Three Rivers Bank CEO John King.
All of the awards were handed out before a record-breaking crowd at the Hilton Garden Inn. More than 550 people attended the event, where the chamber also announced its new education and workforce programs to help local students prepare for jobs in manufacturing, biotechnology and tourism.
“Over half of all available jobs remain unfilled due to a lack of a skilled and available workforce,” said Kate Lufkin, marketing and communications manager for the chamber. “With nearly 65 percent of all current jobs at risk for elimination by 2030, being able to partner education with local industry will give our area students a leg up when preparing for future careers, especially those that involve coding, critical thinking and problem solving.”
But the highlight of the night was the awards. Watson and Bibler received multiple Great Chief Award nominations for their involvement in the Foy’s to Blacktail Trail effort. For many years, the couple has worked to preserve and protect land for recreation, ranching and timber production. Watson joined the trail effort in 2007 by writing a number of important grant proposals and coming up with a land acquisition plan that made the trail possible. Both Watson and Bibler have previously served on the board. The trail was completed in 2017.
“(Watson and Bibler) were instrumental in the development of the Foy’s to Blacktail Trail system, meeting their goal of developing a world-class trail system that connects from Herron Park in Kalispell to Blacktail Mountain in Lakeside,” wrote one of the couple’s many nominators.
The couple has also been involved with a number of other local charities, including the Montana Land Reliance, Montana Tree Farm, and Montana Conservation Corps. For more information about the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, visit kalispellchamber.com.