People Make it Happen

There’s a lot of stuff in your neighborhood and town that you care about

By Mike Jopek

If you want to get some stuff done, it’s going to take work, a lot of it. It will take dedication to move vision forward. It won’t be easy, the good stuff, the big things, take effort.

If you’re seeking, you’ll find people along the way who want to help make it happen. They see the picture, feel the passion of service. Let people help. Some help with hours, with their voice, others with dollars.

Maybe you don’t see the full scope yet. Maybe you know something is just not right. It needs a fix. That it should work better, easier, be more just or safer. Or maybe you want to be involved in community projects. Have courage. Speak up.

Look around Whitefish and the Flathead to see generations of volunteerism. It would be hard to name all the projects that people have built around town. Someone made all that stuff happen.

Whitefish has public amenities just not found elsewhere. Amenities like multiple lake accesses, a year-round indoor ice rink, impressive skate park, an effective food pantry, really nice dog park, downtown theaters, an unimaginable aquatic center, and a world-class public trail system.

There are lots of things unmentioned. Point is that people make stuff happen. They got together and moved projects along. It’s the same formula in Columbia Falls or Kalispell.

People who live here year-round or as part-timers build our towns. They make stuff happen.

Some past and still current Whitefish leaders had the vision to enact policies like urban renewal districts that helped build public buildings like the newest high school, an emergency services building, and a new parking garage at city hall.

Urban renewal is the last of infrastructure tools which municipalities across Montana use. It’s also a big property tax hit to the renewal district taxpayers who pay the bills.

Places like Whitefish allow the millions of tourist visiting our town and county to help contribute and pay for some of the infrastructure needs and lower property taxes.

The streets may be crowded in downtown Whitefish with visitors but they’re also in good shape thanks to visitors. The 3,000-acre watershed protection easement in Haskill Basin is locally paid for by millions of visitors.

The people are coming. Good luck trying to convince most anyone that this valley isn’t the best place to live or visit. The food scene and outdoor recreation are great.

Columbia Falls has figured it out. They see the writing. They’re proposing to voters that tourists help pay for stuff like public safety and property tax relief. Public safety is an enormous issue for tourism areas, as every public thing seems to be built to the maximum-capacity days of July and August.

People like Whitefish because it’s a small and real town. People are nice and friendly, the schools are great, the outdoor recreation is abundant and accessible, and the restaurants cook really good food.

It’s moving to see the urban renewal proceeding in downtown Columbia Falls. Their uptown is a happening place. All that upcoming change in the forthcoming years will need community input and plenty of leadership.

There are a lot of people who live in the valley, more also live here part time, and millions of tourist will continue to visit us annually, primarily midsummer.

Things like clean water or new parks don’t happen by accident. They happen when people offer leadership on things that matter like keeping water public or helping build new libraries.

There’s a lot of stuff in your neighborhood and town that you care about. Get up the gumption to do something good about it. Complain all you want, that noise is familiar. The time to make good stuff happen is here. Actually, it never left.

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