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Avista Eyes Trail Potential

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Avista has begun a trail feasibility study to look at the opportunities for trails and trail improvement along the Clark Fork River corridor from Thompson Falls, Montana to Clark Fork, Idaho. Many options will be considered: a continuous trail; segments of trail; bike trails to coincide with the National bicycle route; trails to connect existing Forest service trails; or no trails. Proposed recreational trails could follow existing county roads, highways, abandoned railroad tracks, abandoned highway, or be located on Avista or Forest Service land.

The idea for a trail project originated as part of the consultation process among Avista Corporation and 26 organizations during a four-year planning process to collaboratively develop the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement as part of the re-licensing of two hydroelectric projects on the lower Clark Fork River.

Brian Burky, recreation specialist with Avista, explains, “Simply put, we have to provide the opportunity for the people within the valley to create a trail plan. Those individuals will guide the planning process. If folks are interested in a certain type of trail, for example a horse trail or bike trail, this will be reflected in the plan. By the same token, if people believe that trails or trail improvements would not be a good addition to the valley, no plan will be created.”

Avista received a grant from the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park System for this project. The grant is for technical assistance and is based on a principle of partnerships. Landowners, government agencies and private organizations must be involved in the planning process.  

An advisory committee composed of local residents, businessmen, and agency representatives has been formed to join Avista in the consideration of this plan. Members include Sandy Davis, Mildred Dey, Tom Eggensperger, John Gallagher, Bruce Halfich, Steve Hendrick, Mary Lou Johnson, Steve Klatt, Louis La Rock, Hank Laws, Andrew Marich, Jim Marschall, Dan Miles, Nancy Mosten, Mary Olson, Hugh Osborne, Laura Richardson, Rick Robinson, Steve Simonson, Carolyn Trochmann, and Marty Watkins. 

Endorsing the study are Thompson Falls Chamber of Commerce, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Idaho States Parks and Recreation, Sanders County United for Disabilities, Pend Oreille Shores Resort, Community Services Fellowship, Thompson Falls Public School, Rocky Ridge Saddle Club, First State Bank, Bonner County and others.

The goal of this study is to create a conceptual plan outlining trail opportunities, maintenance and operations, law enforcement, and funding sources. Community values and priorities will be reflected in the plan.

      Burky believes that if a trail plan is produced there will be a strong chance of receiving grant dollars for the project. Burky stressed, "This planning process is a great opportunity for the people of the valley to increase safety and recreation opportunities in the area."

There will be a series of meetings, open houses and tours held to keep the public informed and to collect more information. In June, meetings will be held in Thompson Falls and Clark Fork to gather comments for the draft trail plan. In August, site tours will be provided along some of the potential trail routes. In December, the draft plan will be released for review and further comments from the public. Meetings will be held in Thompson Falls and Clark Fork to discuss the draft plan.  

Some landowners, living along the reservoir corridors, worry about their privacy if a trail is developed near their property. Proponents of the trail believe creating an inclusive plan can solve this type of problem. The trail study will be an open, consensus-driven process and people are encouraged to provide input.

For more information or to volunteer to serve on the advisory committee, contact Brian Burky, Avista Recreation Specialist at (406) 847-2729.

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Author info

Lou Springer Lou Springer lives in Heron when not out on a river somewhere.

Tagged as:

hiking, Avista, Clark Fork River Valley, re-licensing

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