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Events to explore balancing tourism, quality of life

by Lake County Leader
| October 27, 2021 8:00 PM

Lake and Sanders County residents and businesses are invited to participate in town hall meetings and surveys to help guide their communities’ future.

In September, the nonprofit tourism commission Glacier Country Tourism (GCT) kicked off a yearlong destination stewardship planning process, an effort to shift from simply promoting northwest Montana communities to visitors, to helping ensure quality of life is maintained as the area becomes more popular. Glacier Country includes an eight-county region of western Montana.

The project aims to help balance visitor growth with the long-term health and vibrancy of Montana’s communities, natural resources and quality of life for residents.

“In the midst of this global pandemic when destinations across the globe are seeing significant drops in visitation levels, Glacier Country continues to see record-breaking numbers of visitors. This surge in visitation is putting pressure on natural resources and infrastructure, amplifying issues related to workforce, and leading to negative resident sentiment toward tourism,” states a project description.

“It’s a shift from promoting communities to engaging and stewarding communities, which in turn provides more livable and sustainable destinations,” said Racene Friede, president and CEO of the nonprofit Glacier Country Tourism in a press release.

“The Destination Stewardship Strategy is a community-driven process,” Friede said. “The objective is to engage the many diverse stakeholders who collectively comprise the tourism ecosystem in Glacier Country to identify and prioritize opportunities that will balance tourism growth with the long-term health and vibrancy of our communities.”

To help guide the process, GCT has contracted with industry-leading consultants that specialize in helping destination marketing organizations like GLC deliver sustainable growth to visitor economies and build stronger communities. The focus is on how to maximize the benefits of tourism while addressing impacts to achieve overall positive community outcomes, including stakeholder support.

Two town hall meetings, one in person and one virtual, are planned for each county in November to ensure residents and businesses have an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas.

For Lake County, an in-person meeting is planned at Mission Mountain Golf Club, 46664 Golf Course Way in Ronan from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2. Pre-register at tinyurl.com/Ronantownhall.

The Lake County virtual meeting is 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Nov. 15, 10 a.m. Register at tinyurl.com/LakeCountyvirtual.

In Sanders County, an in-person town hall will be held from 9 to 11 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 3 at the Paradise Center in Paradise. Pre-register at tinyurl.com/Paradisetownhall.

The Sanders County virtual meeting is 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Nov.16. Register at tinyurl.com/SandersCoVirtual.

GCT is also developing two online surveys to identify and gauge residents’ perceptions on a variety of key characteristics with respect to livability, culture, economy and sense of place. A stakeholder survey and a residents survey will combine the most wide-ranging industry research available with stakeholder input, to provide destinations with strategies for sustainable growth. These surveys will open November 1 and be open for eight weeks, with web links available soon.

For more information visit partners.glaciermt.com/destination-stewardship or contact racene@glaciermt.com, (406) 532-3235.