Grassroots Partnership Secures $1.1 Million to Build Sidewalks in Evergreen

State grant comes after a yearlong effort to improve pedestrian infrastructure

By Skye Lucas
Footprints mark a dirt path formed by pedestrians between stretches of sidewalk along U.S. Highway 2 in Evergreen on April 27, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

On Sept. 15, the Montana Department of Transportation awarded $1.1 million in funding for the Evergreen Sidewalk Project after a yearlong effort to improve the community’s pedestrian infrastructure.

Evergreen has a total area of 8.8 square miles with a population of roughly 8,000, making the community small but dense. Stores and restaurants are situated throughout the census-designated place (CDP), but there are no sidewalks.

The chamber joined forces with Evergreen Community Partners (ECP) in 2020, while also collaborating with Flathead County and local property owners, in an effort to address the lack of sidewalks. That local-led effort transformed into the Evergreen Sidewalk Project, or Safe Routes to School project.

Funding will cover two out of the five priority areas that community leaders have identified as needing paved paths. MDT will take over the Priority 1 area, which extends from the Evergreen Fire Rescue station to Montana Highway 35, and Priority 2 area, from Evergreen Junior High to Highway 35.

The grant, submitted by members of the ECP and the Chamber, requires the county to cover 13.42% of the project and assume responsibility for maintenance of the proposed sidewalk. In order to be approved, members of the ECP created two special tax districts to cover upkeep and arranged a 20-year tax commitment with local property owners.

ECP members met to discuss next steps for the project on Sept. 16 and will kick off a capital campaign to raise $50,000 to meet the community match.

Local leaders also discussed other areas in need of sidewalk access and other avenues for funding. Priorities 3, 4 and 5 remain on the docket for the Evergreen Sidewalk Project, covering areas along Evergreen Drive, a stretch of Highway 35 and the portion of land on U.S. Highway 2 north of the Evergreen Drive intersection.

Daren Engellant, a member of the ECP, hopes the capital campaign will inspire other community members to get involved and support the cause.

“This is for anyone who wants to be a pedestrian in Evergreen,” he said.

 The completion date of the first two areas is undetermined, but Engellant estimates construction will take nine months to two years. As the sidewalks are built, the chamber of commerce and ECP will continue to strategize and raise additional funding for future initiatives.

Educators with Evergreen School District #50 are relieved by the recent developments. Superintendent Laurie Barron said staff and board members are talking about next steps to provide students more safe routes in the area.

“We are really pleased with the strong and persistent community effort to provide safe routes for students on their way to school and locals wanting to walk to local businesses,” Barron said. “It is long overdue and we look forward to its completion.”

Eager to improve safety for students, and people with disabilities, Engellant is looking forward to a proliferation of sidewalks in Evergreen’s future.

“There are more areas that we think deserve sidewalk access not yet outlined in our priorities, and this could be a springboard,” he said. “Imagine being in a wheelchair. We need to turn those cow trails into 21st century sidewalks.”

To contribute to the Evergreen Sidewalk Project’s capital campaign, visit www.evergreencofc.com/sidewalk-project.

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