As West Glacier Grows, Local Residents Organize to Monitor Developments

As West Glacier Grows, Local Residents Organize to Monitor Developments

Source: Flathead Beacon
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WEST GLACIER – Two months after the Flathead County Commission approved a new RV park on the southern edge of Glacier National Park, a group of local residents who opposed the project are organizing.

On July 25, the West Glacier Community Preservation Association held its first meeting at the Montana House in Apgar Village. The newly formed nonprofit landowners group has vowed to “monitor” the development of Glacier Park Inc.’s new campground along River Bend Drive while also working to maintain the community’s character.

“This area is experiencing a lot of growth and I hope that we as a community can work together to shape and guide that growth in a manner that we can all live with,” said local resident and board member Jill Yuhas. “We want to become a resource for this community.”

Earlier this year, GPI went to the Flathead County Commission seeking approval of a campground with 102 recreational vehicle spaces and 25 cabins on a 178-acre forested tract of land just west of the West Glacier village. The proposal drew immediate ire from neighbors concerned about affecting water quality, sewage and traffic. Residents were particularly critical of GPI’s traffic study that was conducted in October, when fewer cars are passing through the community. As visitation to Glacier Park continues to rise, they argued, a line of unwieldy RVs turning off the Going-to-the-Sun Road in West Glacier will only exacerbate traffic.

“You can only add so many fish to a fish bowl before that bowl starts to deteriorate,” said West Glacier resident Terry Divoky during a May 16 public hearing on the proposal. “The only one who will benefit from this project is GPI, but everyone else in the community will suffer.”

Despite dozens of people speaking out against the proposal, the commission unanimously approved the project’s preliminary plat.

Despite that approval, local landowners are still concerned about the development and aired those grievances during the community association’s first meeting. Coram-West Glacier Fire Chief Matt Cox spoke briefly with his concerns about how the RV park could complicate an evacuation effort spurred by a wildfire in that area.

“If we had to evacuate, this area would be a bottleneck,” he said.

The community association has also retained an attorney and hired a hydrologist to help monitor the GPI development as it seeks approval from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for its water and sewage system.

Yuhas and other board members – including Dan Yuhas, Jim Clarke and Jeanne Clarke – encouraged residents to collect water quality samples at their homes and check the level of their wells to establish a base level prior to the development. They also encouraged residents to reach out to DEQ and notify officials about concerns related to water quality.

“We want to make sure that everything that is done is done correctly,” Jill Yuhas said.

Rebecca Baker, a spokesperson for GPI, said the company welcomes any opportunity to work with the community association.

“We welcome their input on the project,” she said, adding that GPI is dedicated to preserving the “magic” of West Glacier.

While approval of the RV park is what prompted the group to assemble, Yuhas said she hopes the community association can band together to promote the interests of local residents in the future. She cited the North Fork Landowners Association as the new group’s primary inspiration. The NFLA was established in 1954 and has been an important voice in how the western edge of Glacier Park is developed.