by Linda Winnie

Adding a Kiosk and ADA Accessible Facilities

Earlier articles in this series described how a cadre of Flathead Audubon volunteers cleared trails and built bridges at Owen Sowerwine, carried out routine maintenance and weed control, monitored natural features, with Flathead and Montana Audubon covering the relatively minor costs of materials and equipment rental. In this article, we look at the three major improvements installed by Flathead Audubon that required professional help and more substantial funding.

The first was a fence along the south and west boundaries of OSNA. The May article of this series recounted the extensive preparatory work done by volunteers to brush and clear these OSNA boundaries to prepare the way for professional installation of the fencing. The funding for the materials and professional installation was provided by a grant secured by Janet Ellis of Montana Audubon.

Leo Keane building kiosk – Photo by Linda deKort

The other two major improvements are the informational kiosk located just beyond the Treasure Lane entrance, and the trail, viewing area, and entrance gate at and beyond that same entrance that are ADA Accessible (i.e. compliant with the ADA requirements for accessibility.)

The kiosk project was headed up by Leo Keane, who had been FAS President when the chapter first began helping with the OSNA lease fee in 1994. After Audubon signed its first license for the area in 2001, Leo volunteered to take on the kiosk project. Leo designed the kiosk, and he and volunteers from his company North Country Builders did the lion’s share of the construction. Funding for the materials was provided by Flathead and Montana Audubon. During the 2004 fall Work Day FAS volunteers dug holes, mixed concrete and set posts. In spring of 2005 Leo and his crew installed the display panel, bracings and roof on the posts. Before the May Board meeting, members of the FAS Board gathered at the site to apply the final coat of preservative, and to celebrate the completion of the new kiosk.

Initially the collection of notices and announcements that were tacked up on the kiosk were open to the weather so had to be replaced often. Then in 2012, Board member Ben Young and his students from Glacier High designed a frame-filling display for the front panel of the kiosk. It included a new OSNA logo designed by the students and an OSNA bird list with pictures, and featured a large GIS-aerial trail map of OSNA prepared by Susannah Casey. Plexiglas was installed over the display to protect it from the weather, and a literature rack was added so visitors could pick up a brochure with a trail map and bird list. 

Jane Lopp and friend enjoying the viewing area – Photo by Bob Lopp

Preparation for the third major project began in spring 2011 when the Owen Sowerwine Committee started researching ADA Accessibility requirements and consulting with ADA advisory bodies, and then measured site slopes and distances inside the Treasure Lane entrance to determine where an ADA Accessible trail could be built. They found that the initial 750 feet of the already existing Mainland Trail could be used by rerouting the first 50 feet to an area of shallower slope, and widening and hardening the trail surface. A 10×10 foot accessible viewing area could be created at the end of a short spur off this trail that sits beside a pool where waterfowl hang out and overlooks a stand of cottonwoods filled with nesting holes. The Committee took bids for the project from several trail builders, and chose Darren Pfeifle of Montana Made Trails in Columbia Falls to do the job.

Brent Mitchell and Lewis Young building entrance gate – Photo by Linda Winnie

 That fall, Workday volunteers cleared and brushed the planned trail bed and viewing area, and the Committee worked with Darren to plan how and when the trail construction would be done, and what materials would be needed. In May the Mainland Trail was closed for several weeks while Darren and a crew of FAS volunteer helpers constructed the trail and viewing area. Committee member Lewis Young had drawn up plans for a wheelchair accessible gate to replace the old pedestrian pass-through at the entrance, and he and Brent Mitchell built and installed it as the trail was being completed. The completion was celebrated at an opening ceremony on June 15, where FAS President Paula Smith cut the ribbon on the new wheelchair-accessible gate.

Partial funding for this project was provided by a Round-up-for-Safety Grant from Flathead Electric Coop and by Flathead Audubon and Montana Audubon. In addition, all the materials and rental equipment were donated or provided at a discount by local companies: LHC, Inc. donated all the gravel needed to harden the trail and viewing area (5 truckloads); Sliters Lumber and Building Supply contributed the lumber for the gate and viewing area edging; Murdoch’s Farm and Ranch Supply in Kalispell gave a discount on gate materials; and Midway Rental gave a discount on rented equipment.

Owen Sowerwine is frequently used by local folks for walking and bird watching, and by local teachers and the FAS education program for nature education. Over the years, Flathead Audubon has brushed open and maintained game trails and put in foot bridges to ease visitors’ way. The new accessible trail, gate, and viewing area expanded the range of people who are able to visit Owen Sowerwine and enjoy its natural features.