By Robert Lucke
If Kent Gilge and Mel Gomke have their way there will be more public input into Beaver Creek fence proposals and a long look taken of the proposal the two of them drafted for the Beaver Creek Advisory Committee which they are members of.
Gomke said he went into the group thinking that no fence was the best idea at all. Soon he changed his tune.
"I don't think that fence waiver is worth a damn," said Gomke. "I think the park has to be fenced and has to have water supplies for cattle."
"We had a simple premise," Gilge said, "that the cattle needed to be fenced out of the main valley floor."
So Gilge and Gomke sat down and built a plan where cattle support the uplands in the park and recreationalists can recreate in cow-proof areas on the valley floor.
However, since that time the park board and county commissioners have been presented with another plan which fences much less of the valley floor. Gilge and Gomke are afraid that this plan might get more support without the public even knowing that another plan exists.
"The Park Board has to realize they have a complex problem here," Gilge said. "This is one time to face age old problems in Beaver Creek Park."
Gomke puts the issue even more strongly.
"With the fence proposals no one is really addressing how are they going to best benefit the people," Gomke said. "Do we want to have a Beaver Creek Park or a B Bar C Ranch? That is what we've got right now, the B Bar C Ranch. It got way out of whack. We were on the Beaver Creek Advisory Committee to find a comprehensive plan."
"All this presents the opportunity for the park board to develop a plan for the park which utilizes a grazing system and future development of campgrounds and picnic areas and gives an excellent opportunity of stream rehabilitation," Gilge said.
The question that Gomke and Gilge strive to answer is whether the cows and recreationalists can exist together in the park. They answer yes but in separate areas.
"Look at the Marden Campground," Gomke said. "Good Sams wants to plant trees there and they can't do it with the cattle in there."
Gilge identified six stated objectives of a fence proposal. They are to improve safety to motorists and cattle thereby reducing liability to Hill County and assuring compliance with state law. To minimize or eliminate access problems for primary user groups, i.e. fishermen, berry pickers, picnickers, campers. Fences should be aesthetically acceptable or temporary. Utilize all available options where appropriate i.e. rail fence, barbed wire, electric. Provide for efficient grazing at current or minimally reduced levels. Utilize and/or develop off-stream water sources. Provide for haying of lowland areas. Utilize fence to reduce sediment input to stream riparian vegetation and wetlands and reducing bank trampling. Design and/or placement of fence should minimize repair and maintenance costs while meeting objectives.
"Our plan meets or exceeds every one of those objectives," Gilge said. "Lou's plan (the plan proposed by Lou Hagener and apparently favored by the Hill County Park Board) meets them marginally or not at all."
The Hagener plan would reserve about 600 acres of Beaver Creek Park for recreationalists only. The Gomke/Gilge plan in reserving most all of the valley floor would exclude a little more than 1,500 acres for cattle grazing. Gilge said he does not feel that grazing will be impacted at all.
"We don't feel our plan is going to limit grazing," Gilge said. "That 1,500 acres is mainly willows and low lands. Of that bottom land, 90 percent of it should not be grazed anyway. By developing off-stream water supplies and salt placement there would be no reduction of grazing at all."
"Not only that but cattle grazers could come in early," Gomke said. "And campers could stay in campgrounds longer without cattle around. Look at it this way. We are proposing 15 percent of the park for recreation and 85 percent of the park for grazing. Why aren't they happy with 85 percent? It is a park you know."
Gomke said he wants support for their plan.
"People need to let the county commissioners and park board know that this is a good plan and that Beaver Creek Park will be a better place with it," Gomke said.