“Protecting public access” Letter to the Editor Whitefish Pilot 8/1/2012

To read Mayor John Muhlfeld’s letter on the Whitefish Pilot’s website, click here.

I believe public access and opportunities to recreate and enjoy our great outdoors are important components of our community’s heritage and culture. Over the past several months, Whitefish Legacy Partners (WLP) and the City of Whitefish have been working diligently to refine a suite of conservation transactions that will be presented as a formal proposal to the State Land Board. This proposal encompasses the Whitefish Trail project, a community asset that has quickly become an integral part of economic development for our community. The City of Whitefish is proud to be a partner with the non-profit Whitefish Legacy Partners.

2012 is an important year for our community. Together with our partners, we will expand the Whitefish Trail and conserve public access, protect wildlife and water quality, and increase recreational opportunities on state lands surrounding our town while keeping these lands working forests. The City of Whitefish plans to purchase a conservation/recreation easement and support a land bank transaction in the Beaver Lake and Skyles Lake areas, as well as plan for and designate a recreation area at Spencer Lake. Collectively, these actions will provide permanent public access to nearly 2,500 acres in perpetuity. Because of our valuable relationship with WLP and the generosity of the community and the Goguen family, no tax dollars have or will be spent on these projects. On the contrary, this world-class trail system is bringing new dollars to our community, as the ten million visitors who come to Montana annually seek these recreation amenities and choose to spend hundreds of millions of their vacation dollars in Whitefish and the greater Flathead valley.

I am thankful for the support of over 20 Whitefish businesses who gave a portion of their proceeds to fund the trail during Whitefish Trail Friends Week and for the Whitefish citizens and visitors who pledged their support as a “Whitefish Trail Friend” by donating $40 annually. With our incredible volunteers, continued fundraising, and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks grant we received last year, WLP will be adding three miles of trail in the Swift Creek area this fall and will be planning for more trail construction next year.

As your Mayor, I support furthering the legacy of our heritage, and the economic development that results. Please continue supporting Whitefish Legacy Partners by participating in public meetings, becoming a “Trail Friend” or corporate sponsor, and volunteering your time. We have a lot to be proud of and on behalf of the Whitefish City Council, thank you for your continued support of this important project.

— Mayor John Muhlfeld