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Public plans on tourism, infrastructure and transportation


April 29, 2009

Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]

Local residents continued to provide input Tuesday night to write a policy to guide growth in Havre and Hill County, giving ideas on strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the fields of recreation and tourism, infrastructure and transportation. A public meeting, the second in a series of three, was held at the Havre City Hall to collect input on the growth policy, being written for the Hingham, Hill County and Havre City-County planning boards by Great West Engineering, based out of Helena. The process is being paid for by a grant by the Montana Department of Commerce and matching funds from the Hill County and Havre governments. Bear Paw Development Corp. Community Planner Krystal Steinmetz, who moderated the meeting, thanked the group who came to share their thoughts and ideas at the meeting. “Your input is vital to the process,” she said. Hingham already has conducted its collection of public comments, using a survey it mailed out to residents. The comments will be forwarded to Great West Engineering and incorporated into the growth plans, with separate sections detailing goals, objectives and policies for Hingham, Havre City-County and the Hill County boards. The third meeting, which will cover land use, including zoning and agricultural issues, is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at City Hall. Steinmetz said the policy, which is required to be updated every five years, will help guide the actions of the local governments in dealing with growth and development in the area. Building up tourism and recreation The first topic, recreation and tourism, generated a list of several problems in developing and increasing opportunities in that field, but the list of strengths and opportunities outweighed challenges astronomically. The audience spent most of the 15 or 20 minutes used to discuss strengths and opportunities listing sites, events and helpful infrastructure in tourism and recreation in the area. The first items mentioned were the numerous historical and cultural sites in the region, from the museums and Bear Paw Battlefield to the east and museums and other attractions in the west to the sites in and near Havre like the displays of historic businesses in Havre Beneath the Streets, the Railroad Museum, the H. Earl Clack Memorial Museum, the historic residential district, the Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump near the Holiday Village Mall and Fort Assinniboine south of Havre. That listing also included opportunities and natural beauty available in the numerous lakes and reservoirs in the area and Beaver Creek Park in the Bear's Paw Mountains south of Havre, including the newly renovated lodge and the historic chapel at Camp Kiwanis. Other items listed included the ski hill on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, the Lohman Motor Sports Complex east of town, and the swimming pools in Havre and Hingham. Other strengths included sites in the area such as the 23 city parks in Havre, Town Square and the park south of Northern Montana Hospital, the local golf courses, the Havre Ice Dome and the planned cultural and visitor center proposed for construction at the Hill County Fairgrounds. The speakers also listed groups such as the large Havre trap shooting club, the remotecontrol airplane club and the black powder shooting club. Availability of outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing and hunting also were named as strengths. A major strength listed was the local activities, from youth activities and athletics to the strongly supported school-sponsored athletics and arts activities in K-12 schools and at Montana State University-Northern. Other strengths and opportunities named included having the Amtrak passenger rail service and the air service at the Havre City-County Airport, being on the route to Glacier National Park, the opportunity to attract Canadian tourists, the opportunity to use the Western culture of the area as an attraction, and local quilting and antique stores. Local events like the area fairs, Havre Festival Days and the Independence Day celebration were listed as strengths. While the list of strengths and opportunities seemed endless, the group also identified some weaknesses in developing and marketing tourism and recreation, although some were considered opportunities as well. One was the difficulty in funding projects. A shortfall of money for running the local parks was identified as a problem, as was the lack of a financing district to promote tourism and make improvements. The cumbersome process for receiving some grants, such as the Community Transportation Enhancement Program, was listed as a weakness, although the availability of those funds also was listed as a strength. Another was sites not being user-friendly, both due to lack of funds to make improvements and lack of funds to hire employees, or lack of sufficient volunteers, to keep long or regular hours. The need for a prominent, attractive rest stop and the lack of a true truck stop were listed as problems, as was the lack of a large center to house major events and large tournaments. The lack of multiple sources of transportation, such as a fourlane highway and not having a bus service, also was listed as a problem. Transportation issues Many of the topics in the next section of the meeting, transportation, tied back into the discussion of tourism and recreation. Audience members again listed having Amtrak and the air flights available as a strength, as well as the availability of a local taxi service, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and having two international ports of entry into Canada within a relatively short distance. Some other strengths listed included having multiple car dealerships and two major farm implement dealerships in the area, the improvements made to 1st Street and 5th Avenue, the improvements made at the airport terminal, having free and relatively secure parking at the airport, and the opportunity for expansion at the airport. Other opportunities listed included the push to widen U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes across the state, the industrial park planned for construction south of Havre, and the railroad spur line, currently not being used, from Havre to Big Sandy. Some of the opportunities also were listed as weaknesses, including the need to widen Highway 2, the lack of 24-hour commercial port status at the Port of Wild Horse north of Havre, and the lack of sufficient funding to operate and improve the airport. Other issues raised included the need to pave many gravel roads in Havre and other communities in the area, the need for the construction of or improvement of sidewalks, which included having a detailed plan for sidewalk and street improvements, the affordability and availability of transportation services especially for senior citizens and the lack of facilities for truckers, particularly the lack of a truck stop where the truckers could charge their fuel to their companies. Infrastructure issues The discussion of infrastructure strengths and weaknesses was a mixed bag at Tuesday's meeting. While many items were listed as strengths or opportunities, the list of challenges and problems which often overlapped was almost as long. The existence and improvements to some infrastructure, such as the work on 1st Street and 5th Avenue last year and improvements to the storm sewer drain, as well as Havre's water and sanitary sewer system, were considered a plus. The flood control levy system around Havre, which has prevented major flooding since the 1950s, also was listed as a strength. Services, ranging from Havre and county emergency services to business services provided by entities like Triangle Communication and Hill County Electric, NorthWestern Energy, Bresnan Communications and Qwest, were listed as beneficial infrastructure. The existence and expansion of medical services and the education facilities in the region also was considered a benefit. Proposed and potential improvements, like the regional water system planned to provide water to some 30,000 people and work to rehabilitate the St. Mary Diversion that supplies much of the water to the Milk River and possible water systems that could be run to regions such as southern Hill County, also were listed as major opportunities. But many of those same items were listed as problems or challenges. Some other issues brought up included the need to improve and replace much of the water, sewer and transportation infrastructure, the existence of contaminated ground in the region, including diesel contamination near the rail yard, and the difficulty to expand some water and sewer services from Havre due to geographical problems and the dike system. Other problems brought up included the deterioration of some commercial buildings, the lack of financing districts to help with problems like that, lack of areas for wireless computer Internet access for travelers, the lack of sufficient water to supply expansion in some areas, problems in water quality in some areas, lack of railroad crossings in some areas, the need to improve roads including to the Port of Wild Horse, and the lack of a plan for the design of residences and businesses in areas of expansion. Steinmetz again told the people at the meeting that anyone who had additional ideas or could not attend the meetings can submit ideas in writing to: Krystal Steinmetz, Bear Paw Development Corp., P.O. Box 170, Havre, MT 59501.


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