Saturday, September 18, 2021

Thoughts on Inside Road

| June 23, 2021 8:55 AM

North Fork Views

By Larry Wilson

For years Glacier Park swore that they would repair and reopen the Inside Road. This went on for so long that I, and others, believed they were just kicking the can down the road until they could just abandon the road permanently. 

Turned out I was wrong — again. Last year the road was repaired pretty much as it was before the washouts closed it at Logging Creek and Anaconda Creek. There were even proposals made in Park management to reopen at least in a minimum way in 2020. Turned out a group of opponents got wind of a possible opening and lobbied the Park not to reopen the road except for hikers and cyclists. The Park decided to not open the road in 2020, but to study the situation and make a decision later. Apparently, they have still not made a final decision since the middle 8 miles or so remains closed to public motorized traffic. 

I thought my proposal to open the road to one way traffic in September or October leaving it to hikers and cyclists for the bulk of the tourist season was a terrific compromise. Not everyone agrees. 

With the explosion of recreation ATVs and side-by-sides people perceive a new threat. People, with good reason, feel that a circle route from Polebridge down the Inside Road to Camas Road then back up the North Fork Road to Polebridge would be an attraction to the loud, off road vehicles and would, in addition to noise, increase the dust problem and create an acceptable safety hazard. North Fork experience with these recreation vehicles certainly identifies the risk. We have had more than a few instances of excessive speed and noise on the North Fork public roads. Also, at least two fatalities. 

Some feel that a possible circle route would only increase the problems. Perhaps. Glacier Park could deny permits to ATV and side-by-side commercial tours. However, individually owned or rented ATVs can be licensed and legally drive on public roads in Montana. They could legally drive the circle route just as they can roar up the North Fork Road or drive on the Forest roads to the Whitefish Divide and on into the Kootenai Forest.  

I do not have any pat answers. I ride my ATV on public roads sometimes with others. We drive safely and obey speed limits. Folks who do not are the problem. I want to continue safe use of the roads by recreational vehicles. What we desperately need is traffic enforcement. This can be done by Flathead Forest, Glacier Park and state or county law enforcement cooperation. 

Otherwise I am afraid the problem will get worse — whether or not the Inside Road is open.