By Martin J. Kidston
Home on the range, where the cattle roam freely, grazing on chutes of grass in Beaver Creek Park. And because there are cattle, and because there are cars, the two entities, according to the Department of Transportation, have had too many accidents, and something has to be done.
Citing that 27.3 percent of all accidents in Beaver Creek Park involved cattle crossing the road, the DOT said the numbers were enough to warrant a special study.
As a result of the study, we are mandated to try and eliminate the hazards to the best of our ability, or well stand in violation of the law, said Project Design Manager Mike Langenfus.
In order to limit those hazards, namely cattle, the DOT wants to fence off both sides of Beaver Creek Road in hopes of keeping cattle off the blacktop. Its an unpopular decision that has many Hill County residents up in arms.
I cant imagine turning that park into a tangle of barbed wire, said Giles Gregoire.
I think it will take away from the whole look of the park, added Fran Buell.
According to Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette, the fees collected from cattle grazing provide the park with at least half its total revenue. In 1996-97, the park collected $36,776.19. The following year, the fees reached $45,428.66.
Grazing reflects about half the parks income, Bessette said. There are some expenses we provide for grazers, such as salt for the cattle, and we allocate $50 per mile of fence to the ranchers who join the park.
Bessette said the park collects camping and membership fees that typically average between $12,000 and $16,000 per year.
Despite the large revenue generated off cattle grazing fees, Bessette said she and fellow commissioners are against the fence. For now, however, they are tangled in the law and looking at their options.
Nobody, including us, wants the fence, Bessette said. There is interest in forming an ad hoc committee, and we will look into doing that. We would also like to talk to our legislators and see what they can do, and what they suggest.