Trail’s Future is Up to the Community

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Published in the Whitefish Pilot on 12.4.2013

Whether visitor, longtime resident, or somewhere in between, most folks who venture out on the Whitefish Trail appreciate the special place we can tromp on a daily basis. The Whitefish Trail extends to date over 25 miles of trail that takes visitors through a wide range of habitats, banked turns and scenic vistas, depending on where you venture for the day.  At times it seems like the trail materialized out of nowhere but has somehow become something that you can’t remember living without.

The splendor of the trail shows how so much has been accomplished in such a short time.  Generous donations by Mike Goguen has helped build portions of the Whitefish Trail, matched grants, created an endowment for trail maintenance, and has allowed us to reserve funds for conservation opportunities.  Goguen’s support, in addition to a $500,000 Recreational Trails Grant from MT State Parks, has taken the vision of the trail and the protection of lands surrounding Whitefish from a dream to a reality.

What has evolved in such a short time has morphed into a recreational asset that visitor and locals alike can embrace.  It seems as if the machine that created the trail will keep puffing along, expanding the dream envisioned for a 55 mile recreation loop trail – in no time.

Now that we have finished the final year of our Recreational Trails Grant and have accomplished so much with the kick start donation from Mike Goguen, the future of the Whitefish Trail is less certain.  It is now up to the community to determine what happens next.

Looking forward to 2014, we have a great deal planned and we need community support to continue moving forward.  The priority for 2014 involves generating philanthropic support to raise $635,000 to finalize our financial commitment to the Beaver Lakes Initiative, part of our Places Worth Protecting program, and thus complete the 1,500+ acre easement work and begin construction of the WT Learning Pavilion.

The ‘Places Worth Protecting’ program involves multiple initiatives that target advancing conservation goals, developing public recreation amenities, and creating education opportunities.  Five separate initiatives fulfil the ultimate goal of securing open land around the community and creating the Whitefish Trail recreation system connecting Beaver Lakes to Swift Creek, Big Mountain and Haskill Basin.

In 2014, in addition to paying for the Beaver Lakes recreation easement, we will be seeking support to link the existing Whitefish Trail to future trail connections.  In cooperation with the Rotary Club of Whitefish, we are raising funds to construct an open-air, outdoor education pavilion at Lion Mountain and are developing curriculum and interpretive components to complement the facility.  Finally, we will be initiating an Adopt-A-Trail program and growing our volunteer programs to maintain the existing trails and trail amenities.

The time is now to support Conservation, Recreation and Education in Whitefish.  Volunteer, donate, and play a part in preserving and protecting lands surrounding our community. Visit www.whitefishlegacy.org to learn more. It’s up to you ON…the Whitefish Trail!