LINCOLN — If a group of civic leaders are successful, Lincoln will become better known as a recreation destination, rather than just a place for fuel and a quick bite to eat. There's hope the plan they're working on will give the town a more certain economic future, by having plans for thousands of acres of public lands around the town.
Lincoln is already a landmark for travelers on Montana Highway 200 as it's one of the few places for "gas and grub" between Missoula and Great Falls. But for some Montanans, it's also a launching point for all kinds of recreation.
“Because people that recreate in your town are going to maybe stop and grab lunch,” said Karyn Good with the Upper Blackfoot Council. “Or maybe stay for the weekend in a hotel or even just grab a coffee on their way back to the Missoula.”
“Every weekend in the summertime, Great Falls, Helena, Missoula, Kalispell, they flock here on the weekend,” longtime Lincoln resident Bill Cyr. “They come here to camp, to go fishing, to go 4 wheeling, to ride their motorcycles or to hike. That's really where our economy is driven from.”
The Lincoln Prosperity Project, hammered out over five years of discussions between diverse groups ranging from snowmobilers to the Montana Wilderness Association, presents a road map for managing 200,000 acres of public lands in the Upper Blackfoot Valley.
While key steps are helping fire safety through forest management, and creating new wilderness set-asides, the largest economic impact would be tied to promoting all types of recreation. “The great thing about this proposal is that it offers new recreation opportunities, not just to one user group, but to snowmobilers, ATVers, mountain bikers, hikers, horsemen,” Good said.
Plan boosters also see a natural tie-in with the neighboring Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act to the east, and the proposed Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship to the west. And they believe giving locals a collaborative voice is the way to a secure future tied to that recreation economy.
“We don't have to hope that the Forest Service gives us a trail plan in 10 years. This will be protected by law,” Cyr said.
“The more that we can make that available to people and have it here for you know, for 100 years to come, it really steps up for Lincoln and gives us hope for the future that we won't have to just rely on logging or a mine,” Lincoln Rural Fire District Fire Chief Zach Muse said. “Or you know something to that effect to keep us afloat.”
“So having that security and knowing that recreational component is protected really helps our economics and our just our way of life here in Lincoln,” Cyr said.
The group is planning another virtual open house to explain the plan in mid-March. Click here to learn more about the project.