to reopen dike trail
Havre Daily News
Havre Public Schools is making it possible for the city of Havre to reopen a walking path that has been closed for more than a month. The school board voted Tuesday to allow the city to cross district property and connect the Bullhook Dike path to a city street - 12th Avenue.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice spoke to the school board about the plans. With board approval, Rice said he hopes to reopen the trail by Havre Festival Days to be held Sept. 16-18.
Rice needed to look for a new access to the path, already improved atop the Bullhook Dike, because the old entrance to the path was on Fifth Avenue and took walkers through an area leased by the Saddle Butte RC Club, where club members fly and land their hefty and speedy radio-controlled airplanes. Club members became concerned about pedestrian safety when the original path opened a few months ago.
The city's liability insurance provider echoed those concerns, prompting Rice to look for a way to steer the path clear of the area near Fifth Avenue.
The proposed new path would begin at 12th Avenue and 17th Street and run a third of a mile to the old path, where walkers could turn in either direction.
The city expects there will be 2.5 miles of path, Rice said.
A barricade would keep walkers from continuing southwest toward the radio-controlled airplane site, said Gary Schaub, city deputy public works director.
"We have no problem as long as he posts that people have to beware of aircraft flying in, because they still come over that dike toward our landing strip," RC Club secretary Bonnie Keeley said today.
Keeley said planes land from the east or the west, depending on the wind. "When they come in from the west, they are directly over the dike," she said.
The Saddle Butte RC Club has 30 members and has existed for 22 years, Keeley said.
"We're sort of low profile in Havre," she said. "Not that many people knew we existed until the walking path went in, and then everybody knew."
Keeley said the club has had trouble with vandalism since the walking path was constructed through the club's parking lot. Just last weekend somebody cut a fence on the property, she said.
Sand and gravel for the Bullhook Dike path was donated by Bill Baltrusch, who has said he will donate materials for the new section of trail.
Havre's first Dam Bullhook run in May raised $1,000 for improvements for the trail, Rice has said. He told the school board that, to date, he has received $9,000 in donations for it.
That money ought to be more than enough to build and maintain the path, he said. The school district would not be asked to pay for anything and will be able to end its agreement with the city at any time.
HPS director of operations Ric Floren told the board that the city would be liable for any injuries.
The city's plans also include a four-car parking lot and rest area with a picnic bench near the new entrance, Rice said.
The parcel of district land the path will cross was purchased in 1979 or 1980 when the district was buying new land to build Havre Middle School, Floren said. It purchased two tracts, one where the middle school now sits, and one northeast of Havre High School.
Floren said the district looked into selling that property a few years ago but decided to wait until property values increased. The total area is 20 acres, he said.
"I, personally, have no future vision in my mind ... for that property," Floren said. Eventually the district might decide to sell the land, but the path would not affect that, he said.
"There are still people using it, I'll have to be quite honest with you," Rice said. "I have to do something because there's a liability there."
Board members and administrators were enthusiastic about the path.
"We have plenty of activities our students can participate in, rather than having them run the streets," HPS superintendent Kirk Miller said.
Rice said senior citizens also do a lot of walking and would be benefit from the path. He said he's received 33 calls from senior citizens and more than 200 calls from residents wondering about the future of the trail.
Board members wanted to be sure no homeowners would be impacted by the new entrance.
The closest house, Rice said, is 100 yards away. He said the city would patrol the area and provide weed control along the path.
"We are a Class A city that deserves a walking path," he said.