Spokane Journal of Business

Kalispel Tribe build visitor center to serve scenic Selkirk loop

Tribe to use federal grant of $714,000 for highway visitor facility, rest stop

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The Kalispel Tribe of Indians expects by early April to select a contractor to design and build a $714,000 visitor center and rest stop for travelers along State Route 20, just north of the city of Cusick, Wash., about 50 miles north of Spokane.

The tribe has received a $714,000 scenic byways grant from the Federal Highway Administration for the project. State Route 20 is part of the western link of the Selkirk International Loop, a 280-mile scenic drive encircling the Selkirk Mountain Range in northeastern Washington, North Idaho, and southern British Columbia.

Sev Jones, director of planning and development for the tribe, says construction firms likely will submit formal bids for designing and building the project later this month. He adds that construction could start by late May, with a goal to finish the project next fall. However, under the grant criteria, the tribe has through 2013 to complete the project, he says.

Features of the visitor center and rest stop are expected to incorporate cultural and visual styles specific to the tribe, Jones says. He says one option being considered is following the architectural style of the tule lodge, a Native American residential or community structure that has roof lines extending all the way to the ground as a prominent feature.

The project site, along the highway near the Pend Oreille River, will provide parking for different-sized vehicles, from cars and recreational vehicles to semitrucks, as well as 24-hour restrooms, interpretive signage, cultural features, and other amenities.

Other parts of the visitor center and rest stop are expected to include picnic areas, a pet area, walking trails, an information booth with maps and guides, and a space for cultural events, which Jones says potentially could allow for farmers markets or craft fairs. It also may have a small retail shop.

"We certainly want to include cultural and historical information pertaining to the tribe, in addition to the natural ecosystem of the area," he adds. "This is a popular location for birders to go to see birds along the river. We'll likely include that information."

He says the total estimated cost is $714,000 and that the square footage of structures and amount of land used will depend on design and construction costs within that budget. The project is expected to include sustainability features such as use of indigenous landscaping and green building practices.

A website devoted to the Selkirk International Loop says it is ranked as one of the Top 10 Drives in the Northern Rockies and is one of only 32 All-American Road National Scenic Byways in the U.S.

Much of the route follows rivers and lake shores. The northeast portion of the route runs along the lengthy east shore of Kootenay Lake in British Columbia and the southwest portion of it parallels the Pend Oreille River in Washington. At its northern tip, the route includes passage on the Kootenay Lake Ferry, touted to be the longest free ferry ride in the world, connecting Kootenay Bay and Balfour, British Columbia.

Other cities and towns along the loop include Newport and Metaline Falls, Wash.; Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry, Idaho; and Creston and Nelson, British Columbia.

Treva Lind
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