Thursday, April 28, 2011

Close the Sun Road

Posted on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 at 4:00 AM

Two news reports from Glacier Park caught my attention recently. First, the annual snowplow assault on the west side of Going to the Sun Road is under way. Second, the meltwater stonefly may become extinct, as its glacial habitat disappears. These stories are tied to one another. Assuming that carbon emissions contribute to global warming, you could say that the motorists enjoying the snowfields on their way to the pass are partially responsible for the disappearance of the scenery. Regardless, park officials and the tourism industry are determined to keep the traffic flowing.

Besides being a conduit for noise and pollution, the Sun Road is an eyesore, and an expensive one to maintain. Even if the road is an engineering masterpiece, as boosters claim, it was built with primitive technology, and to outdated standards. At this point, the road is barely clinging to the mountain. It’s flimsy and inadequate, and the patchwork efforts to keep it in place are futile. Reconstructing it to modern standards would destroy even more of the landscape, and make the Garden Wall resemble a rock quarry. Building a gondola car system to service Logan Pass would be kinder to the environment and more economical than this perpetual tinkering, which is driven more by nostalgia than good sense.

The park should follow their mandate of honoring and working with natural processes. Let the mountain reclaim the Sun Road, and use the remaining tread as a trail. It might buy some time for the glaciers, and the stonefly.

Bob Love

Columbia Falls

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