By Martin J. Kidston
Often taking a defensive stand, the citizens who attended the Beaver Creek Road hearing Tuesday night tried 60 ways to tell officials, We dont want your fence.
But nothing worked, and by the end of the evening, as citizens looked one upon the other, they began asking, Are we wasting our time, and Whos park is this, anyway?
Its your park, said Department of Transportation Project Design Manager Mike Langenfus. But our job is to build roads that are safe for the traveling public. This road is not safe.
Langenfus said 52 percent of accidents on Route 234, or Beaver Creek Road, involve drivers between the ages of 15 to 24 years, and that a significant amount of those accidents involved alcohol. Whats more, he said 27 percent of accidents on Route 234 involved cattle. A high number, Langenfus said or, as someone else put it, thats eight cows in five years.
As a result of the statistics, we are mandated to try to eliminate those hazards to the best of our ability, Langenfus said.
But eliminating those hazards has people up in arms, as Beaver Creek Road will soon undergo a rather dramatic, $5 million face-lift.
Langenfus told the audience that 97,000 cubic meters of dirt will be excavated from the park to build the new roadbed, after which two bridges will be replaced and the road itself will be widened four feet, complete with banked curves, flattened hills and valleys to improve visibility, and passing zones.
As for the cattle that caused 27 percent of the accidents, the DOT will let a contract to erect a fence down both sides of Beaver Creek Road, complete with 38 cattle guards and 48 16-foot gates.
The fact that there is going to be a fence is non-negotiable, Langenfus said.
But for the 60-some citizens, the notion wasnt that easy to accept, and nearly every one of them put it plainly, We dont want your fence.
What about the wetlands? asked one man.
What will the impact be to wildlife? Do you know? asked another woman.
I cant imagine turning that park into a tangle of wire, a man stated.
It will detract from the whole park, another responded.
The distaste for the entire idea was ongoing, and people barraged the panel with one question after another: How are they going to get in there to fight fires? Whos going to maintain it? What about it being just plain ugly?
Its our park, its our tax dollars, if we dont want it, then its simple, we dont want it, one woman insisted.
According to Langenfus, if Route 234 is to get state funding, since it covers areas designated as open range, it must be fenced. No fence, no new road, its the law, and they made it sound simple. Langenfus said the only way to avoid the fence is to have the county retract its request for the project and turn away the states $5 million offer.
Beaver Creek Park is the largest county owned park in the nation at 10,000 acres.