Whitefish City Council discussed a management plan for the Haskill Trail section of the Whitefish Trail during a work session last week. Their input to the Legacy Land Advisory Committee was to not allow commercial uses on the trail.
While there is an overarching plan that covers the entirety of the Whitefish Trail, Council last week discussed a management plan for the Haskill Basin portion of the trail with the goal of crafting a policy that ensures commercial use, organized use, and events do not impede the general public’s ability to enjoy the Whitefish Trail and trailheads in Haskill Basin.
The Haskill Trail includes trailheads on Reservoir Road and on Big Mountain Road.
On all other trails sections in the Whitefish Trail network, commercial activities are managed by the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. The Haskill Trail, often called the Reservoir Trail because of the trailhead on Reservoir Road, is unique in that commercial use is managed by the city, in partnership with Whitefish Legacy Partners.
“This is one particular trail that we’re talking about,” Councilor Steve Qunell said, referring to the Haskill Trail. “It is a unique part of our trail system in that we own it and our taxpayers are paying for that easement up there.”
Whitefish Park and Recreation Director Maria Butts gave a presentation to Council that provided an overview of the uses on the trails systems. She was looking for direction from Council to bring to the Legacy Land Advisory Committee regarding events, organized use, and commercial use for the Haskill Trail.
Events are limited to Flathead Valley non-profit organizations and there are several limitations placed on events that address the number of participants and vehicles in an effort to ensure the public’s ability to enjoy the trail.
The report said organized use is limited to nonprofits whose mission supports outdoor recreation, education, or conservation. Both the Legacy Partners’ and the Glacier Nordic Club’s uses of the trail are considered partner organized use and other organized uses would require a permit.
Butts explained that commercial use is defined as any for-profit individual, corporation, group or other entity who charges, including outfitting, guiding, equipment demonstrations and youth camps. She asked Council for direction concerning exceptions for commercial activities.
Staff’s recommendation was to allow no commercial use on the trail. They identified partner use, placed limits on other organized uses and limited events to no more than two each year.
Council agreed with the city staff’s recommendation and came to a consensus that commercial uses should not be allowed on the Haskill Trail. The Legacy Lands Advisory Committee will take the council’s view into consideration as they continue to mesh out the details of the plan.
Mayor John Muhlfeld summed up the feelings of the council.
“I think the staff has worked this out very well,” he said. “Let’s make this trail about the community and let’s not commercialize it. I think we owe it to the community members to keep commercial use off this one trail segment. ”
Margosia Jadkowski, Director of Lands and Partnerships with Legacy Partners, said that the Haskill Trail saw 25,000 visitors last year. Council considered this number when discussing the issue and agreed that no additional visits from commercial enterprises were needed.
Additionally, Muhlfeld mentioned there are over 35 miles of other trails that allow commercial uses.