By Rob Everingham
The fence issue in Beaver Creek Park remains unsettled.
The Highway 234 Advisory Committee made a recommendation to the Beaver Creek Park Board to implement a fencing plan with a "variable corridor." This plan was presented by Lou Hagener and it entails running a fence along the road side from Beaver Creek Reservoir to Bear Paw Lake. The fence would then run behind the most used campsites from Bear Paw Lake to the Taylor Road.
Kent Gilge and Mel Gomke Monday night presented a revised edition of their "expanded corridor" plan to the Beaver Creek Park Board that would keep cows out of the stream and all campsites.
There were approximately 40 people at the meeting at the Hill County Justice Center.
Park Board Chairman John Goebel started by reading two letters, one from the Hi-Line Trout Association and another from Walleyes Unlimited that urged the board to accept the "expanded corridor" plan. The Hi-Line Trout Association's letter was sign by more than 30 recreationists and fishermen.
Board member Steve Mariani reminded everyone the first plan was still to seek a waiver from the state.
"Nobody wants a fence, but to do it right is everyone's concern," Mariani said.
Gilge then addressed the board with his and Gomke's plan. He said this was one of the most important decision this board would make.
Originally, Gilge said, he was not in favor of a fence, but after serving on the 234 Advisory Committee, he said he is more in favor of putting in a fence if it is done right.
With the "variable corridor," Gilge said, recreationists would have to crawl over fences to fish or pick berries. With the "expanded corridor," recreationists would rarely, if ever, cross a fence.
"The fence will change things dramatically," Gilge said.
The road is no longer the issue, Gilge said. Now it is about the fence.
With the state willing to pay for the fence, Gilge said, this is an ideal opportunity to solve "an age old problem."
"This project brings to head the main conflict of recreationalists against cattle conflict," Gilge said.
Gilge said the state has about $250,000 set for the fence project. If cost did run over, there are other resources to use.
Any decision about the fence should be recreationalists-driven and not grazing-driven, Gilge said.
Two concerns with the "variable corridor" are environmental and sociological issues, Gilge said.
Many voiced concerns about cattle in the recreational areas and supported a fence that would keep cattle out of the stream and recreational areas.
Also, there was discussion about the possible revenue the park would lose if it lost grazing area in the park.
Gomke said the main concern should be about recreation.
"There is a simple plan, accept the expanded corridor," Gomke said. "It won't cost a dime and it will improve the park."
Hagener said Dan Norderud of Peccia & Associates of Helena is currently working on the environmental assessment for the project. Hagener said Norderud is trying to get the report out and, by law, there must be a public meeting after the environmental assessment is done.
The meeting would most likely be in late April or early May. No definite date has been set.