What about the North Fork?

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Polebridge Mercantile outside of Glacier National Park. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow was recently quoted as saying “Maintaining a quality experience while sustaining the park for generations to come will continue to be a community conversation as we develop tools and implement strategies to address substantial increases in visitation to our park and surrounding local areas”.

But what he’s actually proposing is what he believe is a solution to one part of the park, while apparently intentionally ignoring that part of the park that they continue to manage as wilderness.

Among the things he suggests for “the corridor” (Going-to-the-Sun Road) is to use “emerging technology” to be able to communicate with visitors. He wants to increase parking spaces — and find ways to alleviate the amount of traffic on the road. He wants to temporarily close some campgrounds so parking can be increased. He proposes that people leave their cars and use an expanded shuttle system. He wants people timed out who park in the corridor.

But there is no mention from him about plans to deal with the same overcrowding in the northwest part of Glacier National Park and its surrounding areas. The park ghetto.

Any plans to increase parking at Bowman and Kintla lakes? Haven’t heard any. Any plans to use “emerging technology” to improve communication for people who visit there or people like me who live in “the surrounding local area”? No — he opposes the installation of a cell tower on the North Fork. Any plans that would alleviate the amount of traffic heading to Polebridge? Haven’t heard any. Opening the Inside North Fork Road which is entirely in the park would help — but he opposes that also.

The increased commercialization of the North Fork, particularly by those for-profit businesses in Polebridge: restaurants, a bakery, VRBO rentals is resulting in a dramatic change — we have been discovered and he is ignoring the problem which won’t protect his dream of a wilderness area.

I have often wondered why there is so much traffic on the North Fork Road during the summer. Do the drivers realize that after the long drive up a crowded, dirty, unsafe and dusty road that they may not even get to kayak or hike in or around Bowman and Kintla Lakes?

Because of poor communication here, when crossing the bridge into the park people often see a sign next to the road that reads “Bowman Lake parking full. Road closed to uphill traffic”. So they turn around and go back down that road.

FYI, the road from Polebridge into the park and that continues on to both lakes is a disgrace — almost undrivable — but maybe that is what he wants.

I have learned first-hand over the years that the park will publicly talk about encouraging input from outsiders, but in fact it’s always a one-way conversation with us.

There are locals here who can identify these and other problems and offer some common-sense solutions. If he is really interested in finding “strategies to address substantial increases in visitation to our park and surrounding areas” he should come here and talk to us.

— Joe Novak lives in Polebridge

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