Reverse the Effects of Growth?

by Catherine Haug

Edmund recently sent a provocative article from the Telegraph titled “Leonard – US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive.” This concerns a plan in the declining city of Flint, Michigan, where whole districts lie vacant from foreclosures and the departure of workers who have lost their jobs at GM.

De-constructing suburbia

The plan in Flint is to raze the vacant districts, contracting the city by as much as 40%. The remaining areas would be consolidated into distinct urban centers separated by countryside.

From the article:

The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint. …

Regarded as a model city in the motor industry’s boom years, Flint may once again be emulated, though for very different reasons.

Mr.Kildee, who has lived there nearly all his life, said he had first to overcome a deeply ingrained American cultural mindset that “big is good” and that cities should sprawl – Flint covers 34 square miles.

He said: “The obsession with growth is sadly a very American thing. Across the US, there’s an assumption that all development is good, that if communities are growing they are successful. If they’re shrinking, they’re failing.”

This all has me thinking…..

What If?

What if something similar could happen here in the Flathead?  What areas would be razed?  If I were in charge of such a project, I’d consider razing in the Kalispell and Bigfork areas:

  • Business corridor on Hwy 35 north of Bigfork’s Ice Box Canyon and extending east on Hwy 83, and west on Hwy 82;
  • Industrial complexes on Hwy 35 in Creston;
  • Residential development in Creston, east of Hwy 35 and south of Lake Blaine Road;
  • Dense residential areas along Bigfork’s Holt Drive and Chapman Hill, west of the post office, especially that on the flat flood plain area as far as the Flathead River;
  • Industrial corridor on Hwy 93 between the junction with Hwy 82 at Somers, and the Kalispell airport;
  • Business corridor known as “The Strip” along Highway 2 east of Kalispell, and continuing along Hwy 35 to the Flathead River bridge;
  • Business corridor along hwy 2 between the intersection with Hwy 35 and the Glacier International Airport;
  • Much of the business and suburban area of Evergreen, retaining only a small village core;
  • The business corridor along Hwy 93 north of the hospital area, including the new development south of Reserve;
  • Business corridor along Hwy 2 west of Kalispell’s Meridian Road.

These are all areas that were farmland or wildlife corridors prior to the development of the last 20 years, and they should be returned to that condition, in order to provide the food needed to support the remaining communities.


You bet, but necessary in a near-future world where the cost of fuel is beyond the means of most residents.

What areas would you nominate to be razed?  Let’s have a little fun with this. (And yes, you could nominate my neighborhood, too).

4 Responses to “Reverse the Effects of Growth?”

  1. Coyote says:

    The thing that bothered me about the picture [with the original article] was the giant backhoe tearing up that two-story house. What a waste of good material. Insulation, wood, windows, doors, roofing — all headed to be buried. Stupid.

    Why not call a “Destruction Day” event (ESP Sponsored, of course) and have locals come take it down piecemeal to use for their home projects? Why not let us scavengers and scroungers replace the backhoe? Less oil used, more exercise gained, more learning accomplished. Safety issues could be handled by having a good construction foreman direct the work.

    Ten or fifteen people could level a single family house in one day, easily, mostly by hand, with perhaps a few larger tools used. One large truck could be loaded with stuff and dropped off successively at participant’s homes in a cycle route afterwards.

    This way the landfill doesn’t get filled, people get use out of the eMergy eMbodied in the materials we’ve already mined and cut and drilled which compose that house.

    Which reminds me that we’re still looking for someone to start a recycling store for hand-me-downs (like the old thrift store) and perhaps to include construction materials (as does the Habitat For Humanity store in Kalispell). I get absolutely wild when I see the amount of wood, steel, glass, et al., which gets tossed in the dumpsters behind my house. Sick.

  2. linda says:

    About the business corridor proposed out by the international airport:

    Do you realize that this is over the shallow aquifer? In times of flood such as in 1964, it flooded in much of that area. In fact, after a rain, go to the evergreen portion and look at what a hard rain does to the hwy. that is because the aquifer (river) is right below and the rain water has no place to go. Everything that we put on the area basically between the blue moon in c falls, and evergreen, and between the whitefish river and the flathead river, goes directly into the river system. The soil in this area is mostly sandy and most is not even rated to allow even one septic. The county commisioners (except one) ignore this fact. Yes, you are paying when good neighbors file a lawsuit to protect our aquifer waters.

    The county does not have a plan for stormwater runoff, but this is a huge problem for anyone building in this area. Remember that huge mall that was proposed along the strip you describe? Well, the stormwater problem was the main reason it did not happen. In the early 80’s, the EPA came in to demand that evergreen be put onto a sewer system rather than individual septics with their rapid growth. The aquifer was impared by the septics and has never recovered.

    We can rarely learn from the past because the developers are continuing to add similar high density growth to the north of evergreen.

    Want a business strip? Then first you should find a way to prevent polluting businesses from starting up over the aquifer. I have been trying to do just that for years now and no one in the county will listen. And Ii have sample ordinances from the EPA with a specific list of types of businesses that should not be allowed over any aquifer, much less a shallow aquifer.

    Our aquifer is only 5 feet below the surface in many areas. It ranges from 5 to 35 feet. And below that aquifer is a huge deep aquifer. Drive by the gravel pits along the highway and realize that the water you see in the pits is our river. It flows for up to a mile from the river itself, it is just below the surface.

    The Yellow bay biological station has told DEQ to cease and desist all gravel mining in the aquifer. The DEQ will not listen, but now says that they do not have the funding to analyze the gravel mining there, and that they are required by law to approve all gravel mining permits within 60 days. They approve every application they receive. Our local DEQ guy told me that no one could ever stop a gravel mine unless they have proof that the Native Americans lived there AND that they had smallpox.

    One more tidbit about aquifers… in a flood, the water does not flood from the river, but it simply rises up through that sandy soil. That is why 1964 flooding was so widespread in that corridor area.

    I think that some of the older people in our area have photos and stories about the land that could be useful in your project. Much is lost when we lose them or when we simple fail to ask them…

    wow, bet you didn’t mean to open this little can of worms! but now we are all better educated i hope. thanks for reading my long response.

  3. Catherine says:

    Amen, and well said, Linda!

    How do we get our county commissioners and other government agencies like the DEQ to listen?

  4. linda says:

    oh, it was pointed out that these are areas to ELIMINATE the businesses, oops, i did read that wrong. i did think it was to build up a business corridor… so now i am totally on the same page. 🙂