By Ron VandenBoom
Months of work by the Beaver Creek Road Advisory Committee was presented the Hill County Commissioners Thursday.
The 16-member committee presented the commissioners with nine recommendations it would like to see considered as part of waiver seeking legislation that will be proposed before the 2001 Montana Legislative Session, according to Craig Erickson, the committee's facilitator.
The waiver would allow Hill County an exemption from state law regarding the road through Beaver Creek Park south of Havre.
Controversy arose late last year when the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) informed the Hill County that the Secondary Highway 234, which runs through the park, would have to be widened, the speed limit increased, and have a fence erected on each side of the road to prevent livestock from entering the roadway during non-recreational months.
The Advisory Committee recommended:
A waiver be sought from the 2001 Legislature;
That the county be allowed to lower the speed limit on road through the park to 45 mph;
That the county be allowed to pursue creative ways to insure safe driving in the park;
That increasing priority be given to law enforcement in this area by the Montana Highway Patrol.
That the MDT and Hill County Park Board create a turn-out at the entrance to the park that will inform the public of lower speed limits, the potential of cattle on the highway, and other possible hazards encountered through the park. It could also serve as a tourist information guide;
That the Hill County Commissioners request that MDT incorporate the development of the eight springs and four other water sources in, or near the park, into off roadway springs that would discourage cattle from coming near the highway to find water;
That there be no livestock passes under the highway;
That MDT reevaluate how the hazard rate is established and work with BLM to calculate animal units per month (AUM), to determine hazard rates;
That a variable corridor fencing alternative be adopted.
The variable corridor fencing alternative would allow a meandering fence that would at some points follow a route behind camp grounds and picnic areas and away from streams at other points follow the highway. It would also be subject to the varying terrain of the park.
The goal was to strike the best possible balance between the recreationists and the cattle producers, Erickson said.
Erickson also said that nobody on the committee was in favor of a fence, but under the circumstances worked hard to strike the best compromise possible.
County Commissioner Pat Conway echoed Erickson's comments noting that 1,200 to 1,300 acres of grazing land would probably be denied the ranchers in the plan.
"The committee deserves a lot of thanks for all of their hard work," Conway said. "They've been working since September and represented quite a few opinions and different walks of life. They took a keen interest in their work and tried to be fair to all sides."
Dan Norderud, an engineer for Robert Peccia and Associates, has been contracted to conduct an environmental assessment of the park that Conway said they hope to have completed by the end of May. There will then be a 30-day public comment period.