By Martin J. Kidston
A grass-roots organization looking to add punch to the communitys voice and bend the ear of transportation officials gathered for its first public meeting on Thursday night.
The Citizens Information and Action Committee, a Havre-based organization out to monitor and develop alternatives to the proposed road construction and fencing of Beaver Creek Park, gathered in the city council chambers to exchange concerns and brainstorm ideas.
According to the groups co-founder, Lin Nelson, approximately 23 people were on hand, including an official from Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and a member of the Hill County Conservation District. Nelson said County Commissioners did not attend. Nevertheless, she dubbed the meeting a success.
We discussed the proposed fence and road construction of Beaver Creek Park, Nelson said. I passed out information the Department of Transportation had given me and we kicked around some ideas. We are now working on alternatives.
The alternatives, Nelson said, are many and range from accepting the DOTs current plan to petitioning the Legislature in hopes it will intervene and wave the mandated fencing project in the countys 10,000-acre park.
Of course, the first three alternatives are, one completing the project as is, two saying no to the fence and road construction and three simply going before the Legislature to get a waiver, Nelson said. We started looking at what else we could do, and we discussed the idea of fencing in a different manner, such as cross-end fencing instead of boarder fencing.
Another option, that of banning cattle from the park, remains an unpopular option since grazing provides the county with thousands of dollars in revenue.
According to Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette, fees collected from cattle grazing provide Beaver Creek Park with one-half its annual revenue. In 1997-98, the park collected $45,428 in fees off grazing alone, while camping and membership fees for the park only averaged between $12,000 to $16,000.
Accidents between vehicles and cattle are the main reason the fence is necessary, DOT project Design Manager Mike Langenfus said at a public meeting in June.
As a result of the statistics, we are mandated to try and eliminate those hazards to the best of our ability, Langenfus had said, adding that 27 percent of accidents on Route 234 were found to involve cattle.
To eliminate car/cattle accidents, the DOT plans to erect over 10 miles of fence through the park. Also included in the DOTs plans are the removal of 97,000 cubic meters of dirt, the erection of two new bridges, a wider road with banked curves, flatter hills and passing zones. Many believe the improved road will be counter-productive by allowing vehicles to travel faster, raising the potential for more accidents.
Lets lower the speed, Nelson said.
The Citizens Information and Action Committee will meet again on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers. With questions regarding the committee, contact Lin Nelson at 395-4813.