Saturday, June 03, 2023

County considers options for walking, biking path

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| June 18, 2009 12:00 AM

It’s Libby’s turn for a new walking and biking path, and Lincoln County commissioners are taking suggestions.

Commissioners invite public comment at their meeting next Wednesday at 11 a.m. to discuss how to spend funds from the Community Transportation Enhancement Program, or CTEP.

“Anyone interested in trails can put in a comment,” commissioner Tony Berget said. “Right now we’re looking at a trail – a nice walking and biking path along the creek.”

The proposed 8-foot-wide path would extend the existing old Champion Haul Road trail nearly two miles further, starting at East Fifth Street Extension, running south between Libby Creek and the Kootenai Industrial Business Park, and coming out behind Heritage Museum onto Highway 2. Berget also proposes building restroom facilities at the Mill Pond Motocross Track to serve both trail and track users.

Berget has sought advice from Marc Liechti at APEC Engineering in Kalispell about the proposed project, but it’s preliminary discussion, Berget cautioned, and depends on public input.

“We’re open to suggestions,” Berget said. “This is just one of the potentials. For example, we also talked about utilizing a path between here and Troy.”

A current mile-long trail starts at J. Neils Memorial Park, crosses the Kootenai River, winds around storm water lagoons and ends at Fifth Street. The proposed addition to the path has been in the works for years now.

“We’ve run into a lot of snafus along the way on getting this trail done,” Berget said. “There’s so many things that can hold you up and this one was held up for a long time.”

Former commissioner Rita Windom initiated the project with the idea that the path would run along the east side of Libby Creek – with creek views on one side and mountains and trees on the other.

However, building a path on that side required crossing the creek twice. CTEP regulations concerning handicap accessibility would not allow the first crossing to be on the existing Fifth Street bridge, Berget said, so two new bridges would have to be built.

“We were going to have to spend a fortune,” Berget said, “to cross the creek again with the bridge because of the wide expanse of the creek.”

In addition, the east side of the creek has a soft base that would make paving difficult, Berget said. His solution – build the path on the west side of the creek bordering the Industrial Park.

“It was actually cheaper to put the trail on this side and fence out the Industrial Park,” Berget said. “It has a good, solid base and you don’t have to cross Libby Creek twice.”

Mike Cirian, Libby’s field leader for the Environmental Protection Agency, said that he doesn’t foresee any environmental issues arising over the location of the proposed trail. Though it’s on the site of the old Stimson lumber mill, the plan calls for the county to bring in its own fill dirt and to pave the path. 

“We’re going to go through all of our records,” Cirian said, “making sure that we help (the county) address anything that needs to be addressed, but we don’t anticipate there being anything.”

The June 24 commissioner’s meeting will be the first step in the process, engineer Liechti said. If the public is receptive to the plan, the county can then have Liechti prepare an application to use CTEP funds. If the state approves the plan, it can be out for bid by as early as next spring.

The county receives about $88,000 per year through CTEP, and rotates projects every three years between Libby, Troy and Eureka. Trail hang-ups caused Libby to miss its turn three years ago, said commissioner John Konzen, so Troy began the application process last winter for its new trail, which will tie in with paths at Roosevelt Park and the airport.

There is nearly $600,000 currently available to the county in CTEP funds, Konzen said, and each project should stay within $290,000. Because the county does a lot of the trail base work itself, $290,000 can be stretched a long way, Berget said.