June 15, 2018
Kalispell, MT – Last week, the City of Kalispell hosted an intensive public involvement and design process appropriately dubbed, the “Deep Dive”. The week was a collaborative effort by the City and the project consultant team led by Alta Planning + Design, KLJ Engineering, and Big Sky PR. Each day featured open design time, key meetings with project stakeholders and evening public open houses. When the dust settled on Friday evening, the Deep Dive had seen direct participation with nearly 600 members of the public, who signed in at various times and events throughout the week. On Friday, June 8th, the public was given a chance to see how their feedback had been informing the design options. Three potential trail design themes, as well as multiple alignments and amenity concepts, were opened up for feedback by the public. Mary Stewart, Alta’s Project Manager helped present the concepts to the public. “We used sticky dots all week to allow participants to tell us what they liked, I think we’ve used up all the dots in the Flathead Valley!” said Stewart. “What we heard is that the public liked elements of many of our concepts. It’ll now be up to the project team to produce a concept design that incorporates elements of each.”
In addition to the daily events, on Thursday, approximately 150 members of the public were able to tour the trail corridor on one of ten historic rail motorcars. After the tour, the project team noted an increased emphasis on preservation of some of the rail and the history behind it. Joe Gilpin, a principal out of Alta’s Bozeman office, summed it up by saying, “The idea behind converting the rail corridor to a trail has been around for a long time, but actually experiencing it from the perspective of the tracks really opened up participants to some of the opportunities that this trail will provide for the community. We definitely heard that a historic design theme that honors the railroad and Kalispell’s industrial past should play prominent roles in our designs.”
The Core + Rail TIGER project will also provide funding to extend one currently disconnected street within the project area. Each public participant was asked to provide feedback on whether 8th Ave W, 6th Ave W, or Woodland Ave should be the chosen candidate based on a number of criteria. “Based on the feedback, I think it’s safe to say that we are not seeing support for 6th Ave W.,” said Gilpin. “Support was more even between 8th Ave W and Woodland Ave, we will still need to do more analysis to determine the best one to implement.”
Over the course of the week, hundreds of comments were collected from the public on a variety of design topics that could apply to the trail corridor. The following summarizes the most consistent themes.
● A historical design theme is preferred, but not one that feels “old”.
● Interest in colors along the corridor, but nothing too bright or gaudy.
● Interest in good lighting at night and during winter, but tasteful and subtle.
● Excitement over a wide variety of activity nodes along trail corridor, including suggestions for play areas (for all ages), public art, landscaping, water features, restrooms, etc.
● Attention to maintenance, both in robust design and annual activities. The trail must remain in good condition to achieve potential.
● Strong desire to see at least one new public event space that could accommodate concerts, cultural events and frequent summer farmer’s markets.
City staff will also be available at many community events throughout the summer to provide updates. The project team will spend the rest of the summer refining the feedback received into a concept design, which will be presented to City Council. Later in the fall, the team will begin working on construction plans with an expected groundbreaking in 2020.
For further information regarding the Kalispell Trail and Complete Street Project, please contact Tom Jentz, Kalispell Planning Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or 406.758.7940 or Mary Stewart, Alta Planning + Design, Project Manager at email@example.com or 503.200.3248 or Katharine King, Kalispell Community Development Assistant Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or 406.758.7713.