Couple sue Columbia Falls over Kreck Riverside Park

A local couple has filed a lawsuit in Flathead County District Court, alleging that Kreck Riverside Park in Columbia Falls is a nuisance and the court should force the city to deal with it.

Mark and Inge Cahill filed the complaint in late August. They own land on both the north and south sides of the park, which is an approximately 50-foot-wide strip of land that provides access to the Flathead River.

“People frequently use the trail to enter trespassing and engage in other unlawful conduct that interferes with continued enjoyment of the Cahill property and is inappropriate,” the couple alleges in their complaint.

The city denies the allegations in court filings and is seeking a jury trial.

The city has seen vandalism at the park in recent months. However, Montana’s Stream Access Act allows fishermen access to the river through the park as long as an individual remains below the high water mark.

In this case, the shore is very steep, so staying under it is not difficult. The access is popular with waders as it has several good fishing spots.

The town and the Cahills have been at odds for years. The Cahills’ property was previously owned by Loren Kreck, a conservationist resident who donated a trail on his property that ran along the river.

When he died, the Cahills insisted that the easement be wiped out. They claimed the trail led to vandalism on their land, though Kreck never seemed to have a problem in the decades he’s owned the property.

In 2021, the Cahills claimed that the park was a “nuisance” under the law and should be closed immediately. The lawsuit filed in August formalizes that complaint.

The Cahills claimed at the time that there was no legal public access to the river under Montana’s Electricity Access Act because the old Red Bridge was abandoned.

The Red Bridge has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2010. However, the bridge is not within the city limits. Located in the county, it has had little maintenance over the past 25 years, aside from the paint.

Over the years, the city has invested about $25,000 in landscaping and other amenities at Kreck Park, and in a 2021 letter to the Cahills said it had no intention of closing the park.

They note that the Cahills didn’t put up a fence to keep people off the south side of their property. The north side is bordered by a chain link fence.

The Cahills appear to be representing themselves in court. Judge Dan Wilson will preside over the case.

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