Encourage tourism business strategies that emphasize economic and social benefits to involved communities.
At the core of Geotourism is the fundamental goal of making a destination a better place not only to visit, but to live. A key mechanism by which this gets achieved is to focus on projects or strategies that provide significant benefit to the community. One of the best examples of this comes from right here in our own backyard – The Gateway to Glacier Trail.
In 2006, a retired volunteer from Rails to Trails in Kalispell moved to West Glacier. She imagined that she would have a wonderful place to ride her bike. She started to ride a mile section of Highway 2 that led to Glacier National Park and the Apgar bike trail. She envisioned herself sitting on the dock at Lake McDonald and marveling at the sight of the majestic mountains!
However, the heavy traffic at high speeds made crossing the highway difficult and dangerous. When she finally did get across, she found herself screaming in fear when semi trucks blew by her as she rode the thin shoulder of Highway 2 East. In 2010, she decided that something had to be done and soon that “she” became a “we” who had a mission to develop a separated trail from the Flathead Valley to Glacier National Park. The energy began to grow and people from the communities of Hungry Horse, Martin City, Coram, Columbia Falls, and West Glacier joined the volunteer group.
The group got a non-profit status, incorporated and started meeting monthly. Shortly thereafter, they held their first fundraiser – a Brewfest.
Since then they have continued to work at raising local match funds through a wide variety of fundraising events:
- Pints for Paths
- Pedal for Paths
- Community Soup Nights
- Movie Nights
- Pints Nights
- Silent Auctions
They have also received grants from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Foundation, Plum Creek Foundation, Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Cinnabar Foundation, Whitefish Community Foundation, and Columbia Falls Foundation. They continue to apply for grant funding.
This project benefits the community by laying the ground work for a tangible asset that will allow residents and visitors of the valley to walk, run or pedal from Columbia Falls all the way to the entrance of Glacier National Park. Additionally, it has been a source of tremendous community pride, bringing people together under a common goal that benefits all of us!
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