The owner of the Polebridge Mercantile would like to see a path along the road from Polebridge to the entrance of Glacier National Park. Will Hammerquist said he’s willing to donate $20,000 to the cause over a four year period.
Hammerquist said it’s a safety issue as more people come to the region, more people are walking or riding their bikes to Glacier.
But the road, like most roads up the North Fork, is dirt and rough. The road itself has a right-of-way about 60 feet, but the roadbed is only 30 feet wide.
In the spring, portions of it flood big potholes.
Part of the surge in foot traffic is due to the newfound popularity of the Pacific Northwest Trail, Hammerquist noted. It used to be about 40 or 50 people a year would travel the route from Glacier Park to the Olympic National Park. Now it’s hundreds and the route takes them out of Glacier and into Polebridge before they head up Hay Creek and across the Whitefish Range.
The Polebridge to Park path has Forest Service support, but it will likely be a couple of years away, said Hungry Horse/Glacier View District Ranger Rob Davies.
Davies said the path is part of a $2.2 million federal access land program project that will improve the North Fork Road. He said that’s still about three years out — contracts would probably let in the summer of 2019.
The bulk of the funding will go to improving the northern end of the North Fork Road near the Canada border, but the short section of road from Polebridge to Glacier will also see work, including the creation of the path and improved signage.
The path would run on the west side of the road Davies said, to avoid conflicts with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and so that it doesn’t run through the yard of the Ben Rover Cabin, which is a Forest Service rental just outside of Polebridge.