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Fund the Fork launches first free shuttle

by AVERY HOWE
Hagadone News Network | June 19, 2024 12:00 AM

After Bigfork’s downtown bridge closure, some local businesses began to think about a shuttle service. With the help of the Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce’s Fund the Fork initiative, a six-seat electric Ryd shuttle launched this June.

“Having connectivity between Bigfork and Woods Bay is huge for guests and for residents… there’s no safe place to walk,” said chamber executive director Rebekah King. 

The shuttle is free for all users, running every day but Tuesday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. It is available on-demand by texting the driver, who will arrive in around ten minutes. Stops include Whistling Andy’s Crafthouse and continue south to Harvest Foods, the Grand Avenue parking lot, Fieldheads Coffee House, Sliter Park, and Timbers Motel all the way to Max’s Market.

By July, the six-seater will be joined by a larger 15-seat passenger van that will run in a similar fashion, but with a route extended from businesses north of Bigfork down to Woods Bay. 

The shuttle is contracted through Ryd, a company out of Vancouver, Washington. The business’s owners run Fieldheads Coffee in Bigfork, and are able to staff the on-demand ride service by cross-utilizing their employees. The current drivers work as extras on their shift at the coffee house and can leave when a ride is requested. In the future, school bus drivers off for the summer season could be recruited.

“The shuttle driver for the 5, 10, 15 minutes you’re on that shuttle is like your personalized tour guide,” King explained. “So they’re educated about what’s going on in Bigfork, about the businesses, the activities, all of that.”

The plan is to provide the shuttles through mid-September, but if there is enough support, King hopes they can continue even after the bridge project is completed. Shuttles could provide a solution to parking limitations in Bigfork, as well as improve connectivity. All of this is possible through the Fund the Fork initiative, which asks retailers and restaurants to add an optional 2% line item and lodging facilities a 1% line item to their guests’ checks. 

King explained that with enough participation, from businesses and customers, Fund the Fork could go beyond the shuttles to support the development of crosswalks and maybe, someday, the purchase of a public lake access. 

“When you go out to dinner, when you stop at Max’s or you go to Whistling Andy’s, and you see on your check a line item that says, ‘Fund the Fork,’ pay it and be excited about it because it brings so much potential to Bigfork. We’re unincorporated so we have no tax base that we can utilize for what Bigfork specifically needs, and this is just a huge opportunity for the whole town,” King said. 

Fund the Fork’s Free Bigfork Shuttle can be contacted by texting 406-250-2254. For questions, contact the Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce at chamber@bigfork.org.