Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The three-day weekend is over, and with it returns an annual occurrence with a new twist a large message board will be warning people leaving Havre that cattle are grazing on Beaver Creek Park as of today. Hill County Commission Chair Mike Wendland said last week the county is trying to make sure people are more aware of the potential hazard as they drive through the park. A large message-board courtesy of t h e Mo n ta n a De p a r tme n t o f Transportation was scheduled to be placed next to the highway just south of Havre warning drivers as they leave Havre that cattle could be on the highway in the park. The park staff has also placed new, more visible signs in the park itself. The county also is running public service announcements to let people know the livestock could be on the highway, and has contacted the government of Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation to do the same with residents of the reservation. “Hopefully that will be enough to reduce accidents this year,” Wendland said. “We’re trying to make people more aware,” said Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette. The issue has been high-profile in the county since 2000, when the state was planning to take over the maintenance of Montana State Highway 234 including where it passes through the park. The highway had been maintained by the county. State law requires that any statemaintained highways be fenced to keep livestock off of the road. After lengthy discussions in Hill County in opposition to fencing the highway, the state Legislature approved an exemption in Beaver Creek Park, and the highway remained unfenced after the highway was rebuilt by the state. The issue came up again last winter, when MDT reported to the Hill County Commission that the incidence of car-livestock crashes in the park is much higher than average, and something needed to be done to reduce the number of collisions. MDT reported 13 car-animal collisions in the park in the previous four years. Discussions at the Hill County Park Board over the spring and summer included installing more visible signs to warn drivers livestock is in the park and could be on the highway, using public service announcements, fencing the park into sections to reduce the length of highway on which livestock could appear, working to improve springs to keep cattle farther from the highway, and trying to make the liveStock more noticeable. Wendland said MDT appears satisfied with the work the county has done so far to increase awareness of the cattle on the park. He said the department has also done some research in ways to make the livestock more noticeable and has found a vendor from whom the county could buy fluorescent ear tags that could be put on livestock so when they are the park they are more noticeable. “I’ll bet if we had a box of them, somebody would put them on (the cattle),” Wendland said.