By John Dowd 

Long-awaited project under way in TF


April 23, 2020

On Monday April 13, the city of Thompson Falls broke ground at Ainsworth Park, a long-awaited project hoped to bring much to better the town. The project has been in the works since prior to 2015, when the first donation was received. Since then several parties have helped move the project along, from Thompson Falls Mainstreet, to the Thompson Falls Parks Planning Committee and finally to the city of Thompson Falls. Ainsworth has had a long journey to fruition. A long journey considering it started from barren grounds with old bleachers removed because they were a safety hazard.

At a total cost of $552,000, Ainsworth aims to bring several improvements to the area. The first large part of the park will include an amphitheater with grass terrace seating and a stage. This part of the project’s funding was secured by a local non-profit called the Frisbie Morbella Foundation. They contributed $25,000.

The next part of the project will be a trail that runs around the property. This will allow access for those with special mobility needs around the park. It will also connect and allow safe travel around the veteran’s memorial, already build on the park grounds. Veterans interested can still ask to have their name and rank added on one of the etched bricks to commemorate their service.

Sanders County Ledger canvas prints

There will also be a shelter with picnic tables and dual bathrooms, along with landscaping done throughout the grounds.

The project was originally planned to be done through three stages, however planning through several years proved difficult and the final construction cost quite expensive. The city took the project on and used match funds, raised by the Thompson Falls Parks Planning Committee, equal to $70,000, to apply for several grants making up the rest of the money. Of those match funds nearly $50,000 was put toward engineering. The project almost didn’t happen because the estimated cost from the engineers was too high. When the cost finally came down, the winner of the bid to build was Bob Taylor with Taylor Services.

The remaining funds came from a Montana Department of Commerce Community Development Block Grant. Generally, the grant has been utilized to fund community “critical needs” projects such as those associated with hospitals. This will be the first time the grant has been applied “taking into consideration tourism oriented economic needs as well as community development in recreation,” says Jen Kreiner of Sanders County Community Development Corporation.

According to Kreiner, the money would have been near impossible to raise in such a small community and a “huge job with such limited resources,” especially without the aid earned after presenting the match funds as leverage. “We are so limited here it just made sense,” said Kreiner about applying for the grant.

The Montana Office of Tourism also contributed $46,000 to the project, which is expected to be complete, or nearly so, by July 31, 2020. Access should be allowed by late summer of this year.


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