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Making the Trail a Safer Place to Recreate

A colleague recently stopped by the Whitefish Legacy Partners office with her Whitefish Legacy Run registration and a story about a recent experience on the Whitefish Trail. To train for the 4.5 mile race, she headed out to Beaver Lake Trailhead to run a loop with a few friends.  After passing a few junctions and road crossings, she came upon another junction and took the trail she thought went back to the trailhead.

That turn was a mistake and she continued to run unaware she had taken a wrong turn. One hour later she arrived at a different trailhead in shock! Alone and with minimal gear and clothing for what she thought was a short excursion, she noted her location on the trailhead map and started the journey to Beaver Lake Trailhead.  She made it back to the trailhead to her worried friends, tired but safe.

The Whitefish Trail has grown to over 25 miles and the system will continue to grow over the next several years across varied terrain. Although precautions have been taken to reduce trail incidents through appropriate design and construction, effective signage, regular maintenance, and the presence of a Bike Patrol, inherent risks still exist on the trail.

The Whitefish Trail Committee, the Whitefish Fire Department, Whitefish Legacy Partners and other agencies, have been working together to implement an Emergency Response Plan for the Whitefish Trail.  The purpose of the plan is to identify a coordinated response system for incidents and emergencies occurring along the Whitefish Trail.

A grant from Flathead Electric’s Round Up for Safety Program is kick starting the plan by providing funding for upgrades to trailhead maps, junction maps on the trail and emergency location points along the trail.  The grant from Flathead Electric Coop also is equipping Bike Patrollers with first aid equipment and first aid training.

All seven trailheads will be updated with new trail maps, including a detailed map of the area the trailhead accesses. New signs promoting proper dog management, trail etiquette, and giving back to the Whitefish Trail will also be added to each trailhead kiosks. “You Are Here” maps located at key junctions on the trail system, will allow trail users to better locate themselves and ensure they do not get lost or stay out on the trail longer than they had planned.

Trailhead kiosks will have signs explaining the new emergency location points.  Every sign on the trail system will be posted with a designated number that trail users will see as they pass by. Users are encouraged to remain aware of these way points through new informative signing at the trailhead.

In the event of an emergency, users can relay the nearest location point to help emergency services respond more quickly and efficiently.  Emergency services will have access to a database and detailed maps will show how fire, law and medical personnel can best access the trail system.

The implementation of the Emergency Response Plan will make the Whitefish Trail safer and more secure for all users.  It’s ON…safety on the Whitefish Trail!


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