By Martin J. Kidston
Harboring concerns for the Beaver Creek ecosystem, the Hill County Conservation District has chosen the environmental side of the fence by joining with a growing number of people who are against a project proposed for the countys 10,000 acre park.
Citing the potential for adverse impacts on the parks ecosystem, conservation board member Vicky Michels said the committee is currently opposed to the Department of Transportations plans to erect a fence within Beaver Creek Park.
Her concerns were largely cattle-based.
Basically, we are very concerned about the impact on conservation issues, Michels said. Cattle in the park will be restricted when it comes to accessing water. They would need to walk further, creating new trails. It would change the traffic patterns in the park, leading to more rutting and more trails.
The creating of new trails on hillsides, which are already susceptible to erosion, would be amplified and have a negative impact on the watershed. Michels said the proposed fence would also intensify grazing in certain areas while denying cattle the opportunity to forage in other areas.
Biologist for the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Kent Gilge, said stream-side trampling from concentrated cattle usage is already high, and adding a fence, he said, may only compound the problem.
Current sedimentation is the combined result of several factors, including cattle usage, Gilge said. Because of concentrated cattle usage, cattle damage at some points is fairly excessive.
Gilge said geology also plays a factor, depositing sedimentation in Beaver Creek. But past highway construction, he said, should not be overlooked.
When they first built the road, they didnt look out for the creek at all, and they moved it here and there and shortened it in some places, Gilge said. We are working with the highway department in a stream remediation project to correct that, but it will never be like it was. It will just be an improvement.
But despite cattle trampling, geology and past highway construction, Gilge said Beaver Creeks resident trout population is doing well. The stream, he said, is home to rainbow, brook and brown trout populations, which thrive throughout the creek.
The population is good and strong, Gilke said. Its as good as its been for years. But sedimentation is already a problem, and there is always the potential to exasperate the problem even further.
The DOT said that due to the number of accidents involving cattle on Route 234, it is bounded by law to erect a fence down both sides of the road if the urban highway is to be repaved. The Hill County commissioners asked the highway department for the project, unaware that the controversial fence was part of the package deal.
I think the county commissioners need to be commended for their efforts, Michels said. They went in to do the right thing, not knowing what the consequences would be. Now their hindered by the law.
Michels said the Hill County Conservation District hopes to work with the Legislature and try for an exemption within the park, getting the road improvements without the fence.