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Kalispell celebrates ‘momentous’ day with opening of Parkline

by HEIDI DESCH
Daily Inter Lake | July 23, 2022 12:00 AM

On New Year’s Day in 1892, Kalispell gathered to mark the completion of the Great Northern Railway line through town. Roughly 130 years later on Thursday afternoon, the town came together again — this time to celebrate the removal of those same railroad tracks and the corridor’s transformation into the new Parkline Trail.

“This is a momentous day,” Mayor Mark Johnson said before cutting the ribbon officially opening the trail. “This is the power of investment in the community.”

A linear park through town, the Parkline Trail runs for a 1.6-mile stretch connecting Meridian Road to Woodland Park. The railroad tracks through town were removed making way for the trail constructed with the goal of revitalizing the downtown and attracting development to the corridor.

Standing on a stage festooned with red, white and blue, dignitaries used the opportunity Thursday to thank the many individuals and organizations who contributed to the project. Giving a nod to the gravity of the occasion, Johnson said the trail is not the next chapter, but rather the next volume in the history of Kalispell.

“This will make the town better not just for today, but for tomorrow and for the future,” Johnson said. “Here we are 130 years later to celebrate replacing the railroad and what will lead us into the next 130 years.”

The ceremony held on the trail section near Depot Park marked the end of a full day of activities along the trail hosted by the chamber.

Redeveloping the rail corridor has been the topic of discussion since around 2010 among the Kalispell City Council, the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce and the Flathead County Economic Development Authority.

Though the last roughly year of work focused on constructing the trail itself, the decade of prior efforts on the project centered on planning, acquiring the right of way to use the railroad, environmental assessments of the neighboring properties and design work for converting the railroad tracks into a trail.

Creating the Glacier Rail Park, an industrial park, was also a major component. It allowed the two last railroad-dependent businesses along the corridor to relocate to continue operations.

A time capsule is planned to be placed at the trail to include documents related to the project, a railroad tie and children’s drawings depicting what they think Kalispell will look like when the capsule is opened in 2050.

Features Editor Heidi Desch may be reached at 758-4421 or hdesch@dailyinterlake.com.

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