By Robert Lucke
For campers and picnickers in Beaver Creek Park, one of the largest problems is the noise from adjoining campgrounds. Due to the narrow confines of the park and the fact that the campgrounds are all strung along Beaver Creek, they are, in many cases, much closer to other campgrounds than make for a comfortable "wilderness" experience. Add to that the noise from off-highway vehicles running in and between campgrounds and often what started out as a fine weekend outing can become an experience of nightmarish proportions.
A good rule of thumb is to keep the talk and music below shattering stages and practice good off-road ethics with your off-road vehicle. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has some suggestions about off-road vehicle ethics.
Noise: "Travel quietly for everyone's sake. Noise annoys and offensive sound may be the off-highway rider's biggest problem. Never modify the exhaust system to create more noise and do not remove the spark arrester. A spark arrester is required on public land and it does not reduce power. Noise doesn't equal horsepower, and not enough exhaust back pressure could mean less power. It can even cause engine damage."
Wildlife: "Minimize impacts on wildlife by staying on designated trails. Off-trail riding can destroy animal burrows and kill vegetation used for food. Avoid running over young trees, shrubs and grasses. Be especially sensitive to animals rearing young or suffering from food shortages. Stress can quickly use up their vital energy reserves. Keeping your engine quiet may mean keeping a frightened animal from jumping into your path. Use designated stream crossings to avoid harming fish by stirring up silt."
Streams: "Streams and their banks are exceptionally fragile. If there is no bridge, take extra precautions when fording a stream. Go directly from an established trail to the trail on the opposite bank. Avoid spinning tires or losing control."
Campgrounds: "Enter and leave a campground by pushing the machine, or ride directly to and from your campsite only. Keep RPMs low when near a campground. Practice minimal-impact camping when in the back country."
Hikers: "In hiking areas, ride with a minimum of disturbance. The public must be willing to share certain trails, so it is important to keep a positive and cooperative approach with all recreationists. Remember, one little blip of the throttle can leave a shower of gravel or a cloud of dust and an enemy behind you."
Horses: "Horses have the right of way on a trail and are most bothered by excessive noise. Pull off on the downhill side of the trail, stop, and turn off your engine. The horse needs to recognize you as a human so take off your helmet and say hello to the rider in a normal, calm voice. To pass horses that have pulled off the trail, go only when the lead rider gives you a signal to do so. A horse is more skittish about unfamiliar things approaching from the rear than from the front, so it helps to greet riders from a good distance to allow them to prepare their horses for an encounter."
Litter: "Carry out everything carried in and remind others to do the same.
Mountain bikes: "Mountain bikers usually hear OHVs approaching and yield the trail. However, when overtaking a bicyclist, ensure that they are aware of your presence before attempting to pass. With limited sight lines and in heavy vegetation, OHV users should approach turns with caution because mountain bikes are quiet and can travel at high speeds."
The Havre FWP office has pamphlets that further explain good campground ethics. But the most important thing to remember is that your neighbor is trying to have the same wilderness experience that you are, and in Beaver Creek Park that takes cooperation from all.