Friends of Beaver Creek Park forms to support recreation area
A group successfully formed Tuesday in Havre to provide support for what has been called "the jewel of the Hi-Line": Hill County's Beaver Creek Park.
A board of directors was appointed for Friends of Beaver Creek Park at its organizational meeting, with committees appointed and issues set for its next meetings including approving bylaws and articles of incorporation and planning fundraising efforts.
More than 40 people attended the organizational meeting, held Tuesday night at the auditorium in Havre High School, with 11 volunteering — and voted in — to serve on the new group's board of directors.
Dana Pyette, assistant to Park Superintendent Chad Edgar, said in her opening remarks that the park has for years provided recreation for people in the area, and people visiting here, including providing camping, sight-seeing, wildlife viewing, fishing and hiking,
"But to many residents here it is much more, " Pyette said. "It's a place where they came as kids with their families to camp or picnic or hike. It's the place they now bring their own kids for the same things. It is the one place involved in our lives in the plains in north-central Montana that allows us to step away from our daily lives and just be and enjoy the outdoors. "
Pyette said the push to form a new private nonprofit organization to help raise funds, raise ideas to improve and awareness of the park, and provide help in doing projects on the park, started because people wanted to preserve and improve the park.
"It's something that we as residents here have a duty and obligation to preserve for generations to come, " she said.
Pyette said this morning that people interested in joining the nonprofit — or to find out more information about it — can call her at the Beaver Creek Park office at 395-4565.
Cal Long — who later volunteered to serve on the organization's board — asked why a new group needed to be formed, when the county already has a park and recreation funding foundation.
Pyette said the existing foundation is for all parks in the county. The Friends of Beaver Creek Park would be specific to that park she said.
Chuck Grant, who said he has been using the park for 60 years, said there is not a problem with having more than one nonprofit to support it.
"The more the merrier, " Grant said, "and the key is who can get the money …. That's the hard part. "
Grant said the new nonprofit could be the vehicle to fix up and improve the park, likely at no additional cost to taxpayers.
"I would like this to be our visionary meeting, " Grant said. "Then start bringing in the money. "
Pyette said the organization will file as a private nonprofit corporation with the IRS, allowing people to make tax-deductible donations to Friends of Beaver Creek Park and allowing it to collect and disburse money without taxes to the group.
One of the goals she set for the new board is crafting a mission statement for the group. All proposed projects will be looked at in terms of how well they meet the mission of Friends of Beaver Creek Park.
Pyette said the Hill County Park Board manages and governs the park, with Edgar supervising the park under their direction.
"This new nonprofit won't be making those decisions, " Pyette said.
She said she has been asked by many people why the park needs help from a group like Friends of Beaver Creek Park. Part of that reason, like most parts of government providing services to the community, is that there is not enough money.
Maintenance and improvement costs are rising, repair and renovation of campgrounds, installing new concrete outhouses, bridge repairs, flood repairs — all outstrips the money available, Pyette said.
"There's always more to do and rarely enough money to do so …, " she said. "The park needs our help. "
Edgar gave a brief history of the park, how it originally was part of the Fort Assinniboine military reservation, and was used by the soldiers and staff members of the park and their families. After the fort was decommissioned in 1911, Edgar said, the U. S. government proposed opening the area to settlement, but some of the founding fathers and prominent businessmen of Havre pushed to preserve part of the region as a recreation area.
In 1916, in the same act of Congress that established Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation using much of the military reserve, the 10,000 acres that now comprises Beaver Creek Park was set aside as a recreation area for Havre. In 1947, after the city could no longer afford to maintain the area, Hill County passed a levy to buy the area and turn it into a county park.
He said the park has been used through two world wars, the Great Depression, disasters such as flooding, destruction by its namesake, the beaver, and vandalism by people on the park.
Today it is seeing major improvements and more use than ever, which also leads to increased costs. That raises challenges and goals yet to accomplish, he said.
"It's hard to imagine what Havre and Hill County would be without Beaver Creek Park, " Edgar said. "It's a place so special to those who visit. Family and friends come together. It's a place where memories are made, and that might be its most valuable attribute, right there. …
"I think back to the early 1900s … it may have been lost to settlement if not for the dreams and foresight of a few Havre businessmen, " Edgar said. "And now it's up to us to do the same, to have foresight, to have a dream, so our park, its history and its heritage, will be there for generations to come. "