Meeting about road draws North Fork crowd

Debo Powers sent in this report on the traffic management meeting at the Columbia Falls city hall last week . . .

On January 28, many North Fork winter residents braved a foggy morning and icy roads to drive to Columbia Falls to attend a 9:00 am meeting at the Columbia Falls City Hall where officials would be discussing paving the North Fork Road to Camas Creek. North Forkers on both sides of the issue attended the meeting, but no one from the audience was allowed to speak.

Participating in the discussion was Montana State Senator Dee Brown, Columbia Falls City Manager Susan Nicosia, Flathead County Commissioner Phil Mitchell, Columbia Falls Mayor Don Barnhardt, Public Works Director Dave Prunty, and Flathead County Road and Bridge Superintendent Ovila Byrd.

The officials discussed traffic congestion that will occur in 2017 when the new bridge over the South Fork is constructed on Highway 2 near Hungry Horse. Although a temporary bridge will carry traffic, the construction will most likely cause delays in travel. The two detours that were discussed were the North Fork Road to Blankenship Road or the North Fork Road to Camas Creek Road.

Since a proposal to pave the North Fork Road to Camas Creek would have to clear many legal and procedural hurdles, as well as major opposition from many landowners and conservation groups, paving the road by 2017 to provide a detour for construction on Highway 2 is not a viable option. However, the meeting showed that the paving issue is still alive and well in many people’s minds. The North Fork Preservation Association, founded in 1982 to oppose paving the North Fork Road, has vowed to fight any proposal to pave any section of the road.

Information about the road and other North Fork issues will be presented at the Winter Interlocal Meeting on February 17.