KALISPELL, Mont. - A new National Park Service report shows that 2.2 million people visit Glacier National Park a year. They spend nearly $179 million in communities within 60 miles of the park. That spending supported almost 3,000 jobs in the local area.
Today was a day for those businesses to give back to the park.
"Glacier national park is our business and is what brings the quality of life to all of us here in the valley so we want to celebrate it," said Jeannine Trousdale, a member of the Glacier National Park Conservancy.
It's a "one day" campaign where over 150 businesses in the Flathead are fundraising to give back to the Glacier National Park Conservancy—the parks non-profit that provides funding for preservation, education and research.
Businesses from Kalispell to Great Falls and Whitefish to Bigfork are involved. They are asking customers to round up their purchases or donate a few extra dollars for the cause.
"We gave them flexibility in how they wanted to participate, whether it's a dollar add on, whether it's a one to one match. Each business is determining how it wants to support Glacier," said Mark Preiss, president of Glacier National Park Conservancy.
Jane Lally is the store manager of S.M. Bradford CO. in Whitefish. She is asking her customers to donate $5 for every $50 or more purchase. So far customers have been all for it.
Lally says she is excited to give back because Glacier Park is what brings people into her store.
"We're so thankful to all the people who are brought in, year after year to Glacier Park from all over the world who shop in our shops and eat in our restaurants and just frequent our establishments," Lally said.
However, it's not just the businesses that are participating in this campaign. Several youth groups have set up lemonade stands around Whitefish. They'll donate some of their proceeds to the cause.
"Today, I'll buy some cookies and some lemonade to support the effort," Trousdale said.
The president of the Glacier Conservancy also says it's not just about fundraising for the park, but also for educational opportunities for students in the Flathead.
"The ability of schools to go to Glacier, whether its transporting them to Glacier, or its bringing rangers to the schools," Preiss said.
Preiss says that because so many businesses wanted to be involved in the effort, he feels this will be the first of what he now will call an annual campaign.