By Robert Lucke
Woody Dawson is a man with and without a job. He has a job. It is the state parks manager for Region 6 of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks system. The only problem is that there are no state parks to manage in Region 6.
Region 6 is a large FWP area running from the North Dakota line west to almost Chester and from the Canadian line south to the Missouri River.
Working out of the Glasgow office for Region 6, Dawson does have 13 fishing access sites to manage.
He said there are 41 state parks throughout Montana and 300 fishing access sites. So with no parks and only 13 fishing access sites to manage, Region 6 does not have its fair share.
"Right now our top priority is fishing access areas on the Missouri from Fort Peck to the North Dakota border," related Dawson. "Those are simply a parking area, a way for a boat to get to the river and maybe a table. Those fishing access sites are paid for mostly by fishing license fees and we are looking for just accessibility to streams, lakes, and rivers."
On the other hand there are three sorts of state parks in Montana. Cultural, such as Bannock State Park, natural, such as the Lewis and Clark Caverns and recreational, that offer opportunities in swimming, boating, fishing, camping and hiking, Dawson said.
So how is Dawson going to find some parks for Region 6?
"I am putting together a citizens' advisory committee to meet and formulate ideas on parks that we might develop in Region 6, continued Dawson. "Then we will have public meetings on proposed parks, and take the suggestions to the 2003 legislature. Going about it that way, I think parks for Region 6 would pass."
Right now Dawson has identified both ends of a bridge crossing the Missouri River at Wolf Point as a potentially good state park. He is also looking at homesteads and adjacent acreage for cultural parks in this area as well as more access sites around Fort Peck Lake.
Dawson is soon to begin to manage the Bear Paw Lake fishing access site in the middle of Beaver Creek Park.
"With that site, right now I am just going to be maintaining the status quo," said Dawson. "There is a fishing platform for disabled people that was started last fall and I hope that will be finished this spring. And there are some areas that need paint and I found a culvert that needs extending."
Dawson started his Montana FWP career in 1986 by being a Smith River ranger. From 1990 to 2001 he managed a river corridor on the Blackfoot River along with fishing access sites in that area and two state parks in the Seeley-Swan vicinity. They were Salmon Lake State Park and Placid Lake State Park.
"A lot of people do not know where major funding comes from for fishing access sites and state parks," continued Dawson. "State park funding comes from park user fees, coal tax trust money, motor boat fuel taxes and bed tax money. Fishing access money comes from fishing license fees as well as some federal money.
Interested in serving on an advisory committee to find parks for this part of Montana? Contact Dawson at (406) 228-3707.
And what about missing all those trees coming from western to eastern Montana?
"People told me there would be a single woman below each tree over here," said Dawson, laughing. "So far I have not found a tree."