Krista Corner Havre Daily News email@example.com
The development of two new natural gas wells in the Bears Paw Mountains received a nod from the Hill County Park Board during its regular meeting Monday. Board members unanimously accepted Devon Energy's good-neighbor offers that will accompany the summer drilling in Beaver Creek Park. Devon Energy is an oil and gas exploration and production company headquartered in Oklahoma City with an office in Havre . It is one of several such companies active in the area. During the meeting, the park board also reported improvements made to the bathhouse a t Camp Kiwanis Campground and discussed progress made b y B e a r Paw Development Corp., in applying for grants to fund further park improvements. Board looks at drilling impact Hill County Park Board president Steve Mariani said the purpose of Devon Energy's presentation was to offer the county options. "The land is county-owned but the mineral rights belong to the federal government," Mariani said. "Last year, Devon Energy did a seismograph study and they think there is natural gas there. Devon Energy locates the natural gas, then gets it up so we can all benefit from it. What they came to talk to us about is how the operation will affect the park." As the board discussed the possible impact of Devon's summer operations, park superintendent Chad Edgar said any negative impact of Devon Energy's drilling project would be minimal. "There will be a shack on each site," Edgar said in reference to the buildings that will be built to house the well heads. "(Devon is) definitely going to be doing some moving of dirt, and there will be somewhat of an eyesore there until It totally re-seeds in about a year. They do a pretty good job of reclamation of the land when they're done, though." The two wells will be to the north and to the east of Beaver Creek Reservoir, which is known to area residents as First Lake. Brent Sande of Devon Energy said the company will pay Hill County for the use of the land in the development. Sande estimated that the county would receive $6,500 to $8,500, in exchange. The payment is similar to a stipend. "A stipend is a good way to put it, because Devon Energy will perform all of the restoration work at the sites," Mariani said. "They are good at what they do and leave very little impact on the ground. When they are done you never know they were there. There are two old well heads in the park already and when you go by you can't tell." Total drilling time is expected to be quick. "About three to five days," Sande said. "If we get approval by June 1 (from federal agencies), we could begin in early- to mid-July and be completely finished as early as August or as late as early September." During operations, residents and park visitors will be able to see the drills at work, but not much more will interrupt the park's rich views. "Devon Energy gave the park board options, like what color to paint the shacks," Mariani said. "We got to say we don't want a big water hole standing through the drilling. It takes too long to evaporate and looks ugly. Devon Energy agreed to haul the water they use in the drilling operation away. And when they are done it will be like they were never there. Devon Energy is a good neighbor to Havre. They do a lot for the community." Bathhouse improvements A local resident, Loren Schloefeldt, has been donating his spare time to help renovate the bathhouse at the Kiwanis campground in Beaver Creek Park. Schloefeldt is an instructor for Montana State University- Northern's plumbing program. Edgar said the funding for the renovations came from various organizations. "We had money donated from the Kiwanis Club and received matching Sleeter funds," he said. The Sleeter fund, he added, is a local funding agency available to community organizations who wish to apply. "The Lion's Club, when they and the Kiwanis Club purchased the doors for the cabins at Camp Kiwanis, applied," Edgar said. Edgar said the donated funds for bathhouse improvements totaled $4,000. "Last year the 4-H Club donated $1,900 toward improvements," he said. "The Kiwanis Club donated $1,050 and received matching Sleeter funds of $1,050 bringing the total to $4,000 even that was donated to the bathhouse. So we've done quite a bit of improvements already." The renovations listed at the meeting Monday were extensive, including making the bathhouse ADA accessible. "We changed out the old showers and put in new ones," Edgar said. "We replaced some of the toilets that were non-compliant, and most everything in the bathhouse is up to code now. We put in some handicapped accessible improvements, and along with the toilets we've also added two new ADA-compliant sinks." Community support needed for grants Krystal Steinmetz of Bear Paw Development Corp. presented information on potential grants that she and Edgar were looking into to support various park projects. "I've been working with Chad (Edgar) on possible sources of grant funding for the outhouse project," she said. These include a Recreational Trails grant through the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. "The grant application is due June 1," Steinmetz said. "We're looking for letters of support for the grant, for new outhouses on the Bear Paw Nature trail," Edgar said. "We'd also like to use the letters to apply for other grants throughout the park, so if the letters said 'We support the Bear Paw Nature Trail and any outhouse improvements in the park,' we can use those for multiple grants beyond the recreational trails grant." The FWP grant requires a minimum of 20 percent in matching funds, Edgar added. The total estimated cost to put two new outhouses on the trail heads (one at each site) is about $22,000. "Which means, we would have to come up with a $4,400 minimum, depending on what the FWP decides they'll grant us." One restroom facility is planned at the north trail head of the Bear Paw Nature Trail at the junction of Phelps and Alkali Springs Roads. The other would be placed near the reservation line on the south end of the trail. "We're thinking of making them a single, unisex, ADAaccessible facility," Steinmetz said, saying the project is not guaranteed. "I've heard that getting money for restrooms is really hard, but we're going to try," she added. In addition to working on the FWP grant for the restroom project, Steinmetz said she and Edgar had made other progress. "We did get the OK from the Department of Commerce director Tony Priete to move forward with the Kiwanis Lodge exterior renovations," she said. The funding for those improvements came from a tourism- related grant through the Department of Commerce. Steinmetz said she plans to try, once again, for TIP funding on behalf of Beaver Creek Park, which was not previously granted. She is also looking into Land, Water and Conservation funding, which will begin taking applications again next year. In other Park Board News: The Hi-Line Tavern Association donated $830 toward park improvements. Funds were raised at the association's putting tournament, Edgar said. The nature trail received a grant for $7,500 to be used for six new signs and brochures to help develop use of the nature trail, he added. The foundation committee of the Hill County Park Board is currently seeking members. Those interested can contact the Beaver Creek Park office at 395-4565. Donations received toward Camp Kiwanis chapel renovations are estimated at more than $1,800. The Cabin Owner's Association meets Monday at the Hill County Electric safety meeting room at 6 p.m. Members will hold a picn i c a t t h e Fi r ema n ' s Campground in Beaver Creek Park June 1. The campgrounds are getting booked faster than ever, Edgar said, so community members interested in reserving space for a special event should contact Beaver Creek Park at 395-4565 as soon as possible.