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Alpine coaster near Lakeside opens for business

by TAYLOR INMAN
Daily Inter Lake | June 28, 2023 12:00 AM

The Flathead Lake Alpine Coaster is open for business after more than a year of skirmishing with neighbors opposed to the project.

Company representatives announced the attraction, located off of U.S. 93 just north of Lakeside, would open at 10 a.m. Tuesday on its Facebook page, the traffic safety improvements required by the Montana Department of Transportation completed.

Traffic safety concerns had emerged over the past year as the main point of contention between neighbors and the coaster’s owners, Jessica and Torsten Wedel.

A new turn lane and other road improvements have been accepted by the state, according to an email from Transportation Department officials. On Tuesday, agency personnel performed a final inspection and signed off on the approach from U.S. 93 to the coaster site.

Jessica Wedel said Tuesday that the coaster has recently brought on area residents as employees and is hoping the attraction will do well. The Flathead Lake Alpine Coaster is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays, according to its website.

Still, potential hiccups remain. The Flathead City-County Health Department confirmed it is looking into a complaint about the property lacking required water and sewage permits. Environmental Health Manager Jim Wardensky said the Wedels previously told officials of their plans to hook-up to sewage and water through Lakeside Wastewater Treatment.

He said his department will review the allegations, and communicate with the Wedels and pertinent state agencies.

Jessica Wedel said Tuesday that the couple has submitted needed permits and are currently using a well on the property. She said their septic permit is under review, and that the Department of Environmental Quality has their application for a multi-use water system. She said she believes they are in compliance.

Department of Environmental Quality officials confirmed Tuesday that the attraction’s permits were under review.

The Wedels also head the North American branch of Wiegand, a German company that manufactures slides, toboggan runs and unpowered roller coasters. The couple told the Daily Inter Lake in 2021 that Wiegand was not involved in their plans for the business.

Community opposition to the coaster began picking up speed in the spring of last year.

The Wedels previously had sought to erect the attraction in Lake County. County Commissioners there, though, denied a zoning change, citing traffic concerns.

Residents in Lakeside and nearby Somers picked up those concerns when word of plans to build the alpine coaster along U.S. 93 in Flathead County began circulating. The coaster and its possible effect on the busy highway became the focus of community groups like the Upper West Shore Alliance, who have since advocated for improved road safety on U.S. 93.

Outrage about the alpine coaster has also prompted discussions about zoning in Lakeside. In May, a community meeting was held to introduce the idea of zoning by members of the recently resurrected Lakeside Community Council and the Flathead County Planning and Zoning Office.

The former body owes its rebirth in part to the coaster. The project spurred efforts to improve community representation in county government. The community council works with the Planning and Zoning Office to review applications affecting development in the Lakeside area.

Reporter Taylor Inman can be reached at 406-758-4433 or by emailing tinman@dailyinterlake.com.

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A patron rides on the Flathead Lake Alpine Coaster in Lakeside on Tuesday, June 27. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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A patron rides on the Flathead Lake Alpine Coaster in Lakeside on Tuesday, June 27. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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