A controversial park proposal involving an alpine coaster in Lakeside got a temporary green light from the Montana Department of Transportation on July 14. An alpine slide is a smooth, continuous track used in the summer months, where riders sit atop sleds.
Stevensville company Wilderness Land Holding LLC received a temporary approach permit for its property at mile marker 98 on U.S. Highway 93, where property owners Jessica and Torsten Wedel previously attempted to build an alpine coaster.
The temporary permit grants the Wedels three months of temporary access to their property, even though MDT denied their original approach permit that would have paved the way to build the coaster in early July.
MDT nixed that permit “due to a noted change in use,” at the site, according to MDT Public Relations Specialist Megan Redmond.
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Redmond said part of revoking the permit included a request for more information from the developers, so MDT approved the temporary permit to give the developers an opportunity to gather that additional information.
Lakeside residents who oppose the project are worried the temporary access will give the developers time to build the alpine coaster, which they say will create traffic and environmental impacts for the Flathead Lake community.
“It’s going to create real problems for residents all along this stretch of highway,” said Lakeside citizen Cyndi Heath.
The developers, however, will need to receive approval for a finalized approach permit to operate the park after three months.
The Wedels originally attempted to build the alpine coaster in Lake County in 2021, then moved the project to Lakeside this year. In both locations, the proposal created controversy among local residents.
Heath took part in a protest two weeks ago in Lakeside, and she plans to participate in another demonstration this Saturday starting at Volunteer Park.
25 demonstrators showed up to the first protest, according to Heath.
“We were pleasantly surprised,” she said.
Heath and her fellow opponents of the alpine coaster don’t believe it’s a good fit for the small community of Lakeside.
“Initially, I was concerned because of this alpine coaster,” she said. “It does not fit the character of Lakeside.”
She worries that the coaster will create noise and light pollution, as well as potential environmental damage to Flathead Lake. Another major concern is the traffic the attraction could generate.
“Our major concern is the safety on Highway 93,” said Heath.
She pointed out 76 vehicle access points connect to the highway on a 3.5-mile stretch surrounding milepost 98.
“We will greatly be disturbed and inconvenienced on this stretch of highway,” Heath stressed.
Heath added the opponents of the project don’t object to the addition of an alpine coaster in the Flathead, but they don’t consider Lakeside the right location for such a project.
“They just need to go to a safer place in the valley,” she said.
Wilderness Land Holding LLC did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.