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Good News from 2023

Here in our home a lot of good things happened, thanks in no small part to the concerted, community-minded efforts of residents

By Maggie Doherty

On my desk I keep a snow globe with two downhill skiers schussing through glittery powder. No matter the season, I keep the duo next to my keyboard and give it a good shake throughout the day, either to kick off a writing session or to give me a bit of a boost when the words slow to a slog. This time of year, I shake it with regular frequency and pray for snow. Simple, small pleasures that make me smile. It’s a good thing to have at arm’s reach, and perhaps my pleas will deliver that much-needed blizzard. Another thing I keep on hand is a list or bookmarked tally of the good news from the past year because many of the headlines locally and globally can be very bleak.

Here in our home a lot of good things happened, thanks in no small part to the concerted, community-minded efforts of residents who are trying to make our mountainous corner of the world a good place. In Columbia Falls, a group of locals are building the city’s first skateboard park. Since 2021, the Badrock Skatepark Association has been making headway on creating the first skatepark for the town. Kalispell and Whitefish have renowned skateparks, and Badrock, the non-profit organization of skateboarders, parents, and locals, is trying to get their community its own, easily accessible skatepark. And they’re finding success and community enthusiasm. Our towns thrive with projects like these as they provide kids and adults inclusive spaces to be active, creative, and engaged.

Speaking of kids, perhaps the biggest Montana headline from the year was the groundbreaking Held vs. State of Montana climate case. Sixteen youth plaintiffs, including brothers Lander and Badge Busse of Kalispell, won the case against the state for violating their (and our) constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. This was the first trial of its kind in the United States and demonstrates the urgent need to address emissions and what the state needs to do to respond to the threats of science-backed climate change. It also shows a commitment to the larger community by these young people and when that ruling was handed down last summer, I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face for weeks. If we don’t take care of our environment, where are we going to live? While I love my snow globe, I don’t want to be frozen inside of a bubble.

 Another victory for the Flathead Valley is Bigfork’s new library. The small community of Bigfork has long needed a new facility for its ImagineIF Library branch and after many years of perseverance and community action, the new building is in the works. The ImagineIF Library Foundation, the fundraising partner for the county-wide library system, has raised funds to purchase the 6,000-square-foot building behind Bethany Lutheran Church and continues to raise money to fund the renovation. Also, this new building will be the first library property the county owns. In Kalispell, ImagineIF rents the space. It’s a major accomplishment for library supporters and the Bigfork community.

These are but three stories that gave me such a great sense of pride in how our communities are working with diligence and passion to create vibrant, accessible, open, and livable spaces for all of us to enjoy. The commitment is ongoing, and these endeavors are not without their headaches and heartaches. I’m grateful to live in a place where we demand a clean and healthful environment, where people come together, pooling their resources and talents to make a park or house books and materials for the entire public. Sometimes the world feels as dizzy as the snow globe, but when the storm passes, we’re treated to a magical landscape.

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