By Martin J. Kidston
In order to respond to community concerns and to extinguish the burning rumor mill, Hill County Commissioners have announced the organization of an advisory committee which will brainstorm options to the unpopular Beaver Creek fencing project.
Commissioners Pat Conway, Kathy Bessette and Doug Kaercher said the advisory committee will represent a cross section of the community, from ranchers to recreators to members of the Friends of Beaver Creek citizens group.
Our approach to this issue has not changed, Conway said. What we have done, and what we have always planned on doing, is to form a work and advisory committee, and that committee will be the official committee of Hill County.
Conway said the committee will consist of 16 members. He added that while the Friends of Beaver Creek citizens group has developed a good vehicle, it will be the Beaver Creek Advisory Committee that will be acting on park issues under the official authority of the county.
Commissioners Bessette and Kaercher agreed.
If theres a negative result from all this, the county will be the one who ends up paying the consequences, not the Friends of Beaver Creek, Bessette said.
And we need to make another thing clear, Kaercher added. Weve never been in favor of this proposed fence. Weve been writing letters of opposition to the state since the day this started.
Kaercher said that while the county favors road improvements within the park, it is bound under the mandates of the law when it comes to the fence, and to date, there is little the county can do to change that.
In a letter from the county commissioners to the Montana Department of Transportation, dated May 12, 1999, commissioners wrote, Hill County has emphatically stated opposition to construction of this fence, since it will affect the esthetics of Beaver Creek Park.
The state responded on July 8, 1999, with a letter quoting Montana law, and why the fence in necessary.
(Montana Code Annotated) requires the Department to fence the right-of-way of any part of the state highway system that is reconstructed through open range where livestock present a hazard to the safety of the motorist.
While county commissioners and the up-and-coming advisory committee search for ways to stave off the fence, the current rumors concerning the fence have been troubling the commissioners.
The rumors are rampant, Bessette said. People are talking about an eight-foot chain link fence. The type of fence has not even been decided on. It could be as simple as a pole fence, or a cattle-containing fence. We are not looking to turn the park into a prison.
The Beaver Creek Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting at the Hill County Annex building on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m. The public is welcome to attend, commissioners said.