On September 15, the Montana Department of Transportation awarded $ 1.1 million in funding for the Evergreen Sidewalk project after a year of efforts to improve pedestrian infrastructure at Evergreen.
Evergreen has a total area of ââ8.8 square miles with a population of approximately 8,000, making the community small but dense. Shops and restaurants are located throughout the census designated locality (CDP), but there are no sidewalks.
The chamber partnered with Evergreen Community Partners (ECP) in 2020, while also working with Flathead County and local landlords, to address the lack of sidewalks. This local effort evolved into the Evergreen Sidewalk, or Safe Routes to School project.
The funding will cover two of the five priority areas that community leaders have identified as requiring paved paths. MDT will support the Priority 1 Zone, which stretches from the Evergreen Fire Hall to Montana’s Hwy 35, and the Priority 2 Zone, from Evergreen Junior High to Hwy 35.
The grant, presented by members of the ECP and the House, obliges the county to cover 13.42% of the project and take responsibility for the maintenance of the proposed sidewalk. In order to be licensed, ECP members created two special tax districts to cover maintenance and entered into a 20-year tax commitment with local owners.
ECP members gathered to discuss the next steps for the project on September 16 and will launch a fundraising campaign to raise $ 50,000 to meet with the community.
Local leaders also discussed other areas requiring curbside access and other avenues of funding. Priorities 3, 4 and 5 remain in the role of the Evergreen Sidewalk project, covering areas along Evergreen Drive, a section of Highway 35 and the portion of land on US Highway 2 north of the intersection of ‘Evergreen Drive.
ECP member Daren Engellant hopes the fundraising campaign will inspire other members of the community to get involved and support the cause.
âIt’s for anyone who wants to be a pedestrian in Evergreen,â he said.
The completion date for the first two areas is undetermined, but Engellant estimates construction will take anywhere from nine months to two years. As the sidewalks are built, the chamber of commerce and ECP will continue to strategize and raise additional funds for future initiatives.
Educators at Evergreen School District # 50 are relieved by recent developments. Superintendent Laurie Barron said staff and board members are discussing next steps to provide students with safer routes in the area.
âWe are really excited about the continued and sustained efforts by the community to provide safe routes for students on their way to school and for locals who wish to walk to local businesses,â said Barron. âIt is long overdue and we look forward to its completion. “
Eager to improve the safety of students and people with disabilities, Engellant looks forward to a proliferation of sidewalks in Evergreen’s future.
âThere are more areas that we believe deserve sidewalk access that are not yet outlined in our priorities, and that could be a stepping stone,â he said. âImagine being in a wheelchair. We need to turn these cow trails into 21st century sidewalks. “
To contribute to the visit of the fundraising campaign of the Evergreen Sidewalk project www.evergreencofc.com/sidewalk-project.