U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler visited with Kalispell city officials and EPA Region 8 Administrator Gregory Sopkin on June 24 to tour several Brownfields sites, which are now part of the Kalispell Core and Rail Redevelopment project.
The project, which has paved the way for the Glacier Rail Park and the future Parkline Trail in downtown Kalispell, is a result of a Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant in combination with a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant and public and private funds.
The Rail Park, former CHS Country Store, CHS Agronomy Center and SunRift Restaurant and Beer Company are all part of the EPA’s Brownfield Program, which provides funding for areas once that were once contaminated to be redeveloped.
“In chatting with one of the proprietors here of this facility they’re excited about these tracks that will turn into trails,” Daines said. “And as you all know, the ability to preserve your downtown is so important for economic vitality and culture of the community. So congratulations on a job well done to the community here at the county level, the city level and now working at the federal level too.”
Next spring, officials will begin ripping out the railroad tracks running through downtown Kalispell, which is planned to be completed by fall 2021, said Katharine King, the City of Kalispell’s assistant director of community development. The tracks will be replaced with the Kalispell Parkline Trail, a linear pedestrian trail, which will run alongside several downtown businesses.
A $2 million Brownfields grant was used for a portion of the Brownfields sites, which includes the former CHS Country Store and the former CHS Agronomy Center.
As former fuel sites, King says the detainment of petroleum products left over time at these areas can create issues with contamination. Funds were used in Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESA) and underground storage tank removal at both sites. SunRift Restaurant and Beer Company, however, has not used any Brownfields funds.
The former CHS Country Store is now home to a retail lighting store and a future title company and physical therapy office while the former CHS Agronomy Center will be home to an 80-unit housing development and 25,000 square feet of retail and office space.
In 2017, the Glacier Rail Park began construction from the decommissioned gravel pit and part state Superfund site. It’s now home to CHS, Northwest Drywall and the future home of Northern Plastics. Infrastructure and roads were upgraded in addition to 16,000 linear feet of railroad track and a traffic light on U.S. Highway East and Flathead Drive.
“Because of our Brownfields grants program, we encourage people to invest and reclaim the downtown areas to turn them into places like this where people can congregate and eat and bring more tourists to the area,” Wheeler said outside of the SunRift Restaurant and Beer Company.
For more information about the Kalispell Core and Rail Redevelopment project, visit www.kalispellcoreandrail.com.