Places Worth Protecting – The Whitefish Trail
Published in the Whitefish Pilot on November 20, 2013
What better time to evaluate the Whitefish Trail than after a great season of hiking, biking and exploring the lands surrounding Whitefish? The annual Whitefish Trail Public Meeting and Review took place at the end of October and included a meeting held at City Hall in conjunction with comments submitted via email regarding the Lion Mountain, Skyles, Lupfer, Beaver Lakes, Swift Creek, and Woods Lake Trails.
A wide variety of trail users and supporters were represented at the annual meeting including hikers, runners, dog walkers, horse users, outdoor clubs, and business owners. Staff representatives from the DNRC, the City of Whitefish, Whitefish Legacy Partners, and Forestoration were on hand to listen to feedback from the community.
A diversity of comments and concerns were submitted but tended to focus on a few major issues. The following key points summarize topics presented by trail users:
Dogs: Feedback varied from thankfulness that the trail does not have a leash law to other users showing great concern about dogs not being under voice control. Waste clean-up was also a continuing concern.
Horse Use: Issues presented included horse parking at trailheads, restricting use of horses on Lion Mountain, and waste clean-up.
User Courtesy: Concerns included speeding on roads that access trailheads resulting in increased dust and safety issues in adjoining neighborhoods. On the trail courtesy issues arose around bikers not yielding to large groups of hikers.
Parking and crowding: Over capacity at Lion Mountain trailhead was brought up numerous times and suggestions were made including adding a new parking lot and additional trail loop options with restricted use designations. The creation of another trailhead close to town to alleviate overuse at Lion Mountain was also suggested. The Hwy 93 bike path (to be constructed summer 2014) was also discussed. Other trailheads were not mentioned to have overcrowding issues.
Signage: Additional signage for trail user responsibilities, way finding signs, and signs on the highway to indicate trailhead locations were suggested.
The comments received will continue to be reviewed and evaluated by the City of Whitefish Parks and Recreation Department and Whitefish Legacy Partners. This input from the public is vital to shaping planning and management decisions for the upcoming year.
Something also worth noting was the abundance of positive comments received. Comments like “fabulous job on all trails”, “I love the trail system” to “great for the future of Whitefish” and “we are truly creating something of long-term value for our town” re-emphasized the positive impacts the trail is making on the community.
While the trail may never be perfect for everyone at every moment, we are heading in the right direction. Thank you to those who took the time to send in comments or attend the annual review meeting. The Whitefish Trail is user supported trail and we encourage everyone to be involved, volunteer, and donate TODAY at www.whitefishlegacy.org to support this wonderful amenity in our community. It’s ON….The Whitefish Trail!