The Flathead Valley has long been billed as a destination for water-based recreation. Anglers and whitewater enthusiasts flock to local rivers in the summer, and Flathead Lake itself is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. But this spring, water skiing has become the primary source of controversy surrounding a proposed subdivision north of Kalispell—or, rather, the addition of a private man-made water ski lake on the banks of the Whitefish River.
Flathead County officials are currently reviewing an application from Bigfork developer Bill Tanner of Score Management, LLC, for the 154-acre Rosewater subdivision. Tanner has pitched the proposal as "Montana's premier water ski community," and is seeking the county's approval to construct a 27-acre lake lined with houses and designed for water skiing. Tanner maintains there's a need for such a facility in the Flathead due to the lack of adequate water skiing opportunities on natural lakes. "The key about water skiing is you want flat water," he explains. "When you go to public lakes, you just don't get the flat water, nor can you put up your slalom course."
According to a draft Rosewater operation and maintenance manual, the lake would draw its water from the Whitefish River and be "solely for the use of Rosewater residents and their guests."
The Flathead County Planning Board recommended in February that the county commission approve Tanner's application, but the commission sent the proposal back to the planning board April 10 to address questions over potential leakage from the artificial lake. The planning board again recommended the commission approve the application this month.
Several neighboring residents have voiced concerns about noise pollution, though Tanner counters that Rosewater residents will only be allowed to use USA Water Ski certified towboats"no jet skis, no two-strokes, no outboard motors." Locals also raised issue with possible contamination of the aquifer below the subdivision that feeds nearby wells.
Tanner maintains that the private amenity is the only way to sell residential lots in the present market.
"You have to have some kind of a draw," Tanner says. "In years past, people liked to be on golf courses. I'm going to do a subdivision with lakes."