Last Wednesday I spent about three hours leaning against a cupboard in an office at the Flathead County Zoning Department as person after person went to the podium to display their distaste for a proposed RV Park in West Glacier.
I was leaning up against the counter because there were no more seats.
I didn’t mind. These people had plenty to say and their concerns were real and genuine and the debate, it seemed to me, was more about the loss of a way of life and less about an RV Park.
When 170-plus acres of land just outside your fair village remains vacant for decades, it’s easy to feel punched in the gut when someone comes along, buys it for a fair sum, and decides to develop it.
This is especially true when a small herd of elk call it home every winter and you’re as likely to see a bear or moose waltz through the grove of woods than anything else.
Having said all of that, I seriously doubt anyone had illusions that when Glacier Park Inc, bought the property — prime real estate by any measure — that they would simply let it sit fallow for the next generation. Most corporations aren’t in the habit of swinging conservation deals, especially those whose livelihoods rely on visitors to national parks.
So here comes an RV Park and a small village of cabins on a road that’s too narrow already that feeds into a road that’s way too busy.
It’s easy to understand the anger. But outside of a white knight with deep pockets that will swoop in, buy the property, and conserve it for future generations, the RV Park, I dare say, will probably happen.
There have been plenty of suggestions on how to deal with the traffic at the corner of River Bend Drive and the Going-to-the-Sun Road, where the RV traffic is sure to exacerbate an already gnarled situation.
Some have blamed Glacier Park for the gridlock, and that may be partially true — I’ve always found it maddening that a visitor with an annual pass has to wait in line. Sure, the Park has implemented “roving rangers” and they do speed things up a bit — but more often than not they’re not working when I’m in line.
It would greatly benefit traffic if there was simply a by-pass lane for folks who had passes. Not sure why the Park Service is dragging its feet on this, considering every major toll road in the country had implemented a system years ago. Just drive through Chicago sometime.
But beyond passes and by-pass lanes, I’m wondering if West Glacier might benefit from another urban staple — the good old traffic cop. A crew of qualified cops could certainly help with traffic at peak season in West Glacier, and put, hopefully, a friendly face on the situation. They would only be needed two or possibly three months a year, if that. And they’d only be needed at peak hours as well.
It would work better than a four-way stop or a traffic light and would be far cheaper than expanding highways, or creating new entrances. It’s just my thought for now. The only other alternative I have, is to avoid the place in the summer altogether. That’s a viable option for me, but not a great one for people who live there.
Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.