Close the Loop Series: Protecting Smith Lake from Development
In the beginning, creating a community trail system was seen as a solution to the impending sale and development of vulnerable MT State Trust lands surrounding Whitefish. With a sharp increase in property values and development, the risk to lose public land to private buyers was increasing, and the community came together to make a stand.
Nearly 20 years later, the community has protected over 6,000 acres of local land. The same efforts that saved 1,520 acres in Beaver Lakes and 3,022 acres in Haskill Basin are alive again today. We have yet another amazing opportunity to permanently protect 480 acres of higher-risk DNRC lands surrounding Smith Lake.
If you have not visited Smith Lake, we highly recommend that you make plans this October. Orange hues of western larch trees reflect in pristine waters, and a short evening hike along the Whitefish Trail will reveal an eastern shoreline bathed in golden, autumn light. If you are lucky, you might see a school of trout rising, a monster whitetail scratching its antlers, or migratory birds making a pit stop on their way south.
Right now, Smith Lake is not forever. The City of Whitefish holds a 10-year license for the existing trails that connect to Swift Creek, and the public’s right to access those trails is temporary. Whitefish Legacy Partners would like to change that. We want to permanently secure the public’s right to access the trail and set aside the remaining 480 acres for wildlife and resource protection. This large swath of land will provide a sanctuary for animals and will continually support local jobs by maintaining working forestry.
Protecting Smith Lake is a win for recreationists, loggers, MT Schools, wildlife, conservationists, local education community, and our local economy. Current generations will ultimately shape the future of our local landscape, and right now, we have an an opportunity to act. What is your legacy? Be a part of something truly amazing, and help us Close the Loop of the Whitefish Trail.