By Tim Leeds 

Park board moves forward on setting up matching grant fund


The Hill County Park Board held its annual reorganizational meeting in Beaver Creek Park Monday following a potluck lunch featuring burgers and Rocky Mountain Hot Dogs, discussing issues from the planned budget from next year to setting up a Frisbee golf course on the park and creating a grant fund administered by the board.

The board’s Finance and Planning Committee has discussed using money put into a capital improvements fund to provide matching grants to people and organizations that want to make improvements to Beaver Creek Park.

Beaver Creek Park Superintendent Chad Edgar said the park is required to keep a one-third reserve of its budget every year, but the park last year started putting any revenue above that reserve and expenses into the capital improvements fund.

Last year about $20,000 went into that fund.

Edgar said he wants to start using that for matching grants, and after a newspaper article reporting the last meeting of the Finance and Planning Committee reported the proposal, he already has received a request for a match — before the program even had been approved and set up.

Edgar said the program would allow the board to get more use out of the money available.

“This is park money and we want to multiply it,” he said.

“Leverage it,” added Hill County Commissioner and Park Board Member Diane McLean.

The board agreed to send it back to the Finance and Planning Committee for final drafting of the proposal, to be put on the agenda of the June meeting for a vote.

The board also heard from Havre Trails about plans to expand the Rotary Loop walking trail it built on the park.

Lindsey Bennett of Havre Trails said the group is working to use a tourism grant it received from the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to print up brochures on trails and to put up signs on the Rotary Loop Trail.

The group is also looking into Phase 2 of that project, creating a loop that would go back to Rotary Falls. This addition also would significantly increase the length of the trail — people could walk one loop or the other or both in a figure-eight formation, she said.

The new loop would add a mile-and-a-half to the trail.

She added that the trail going up to the falls would give a spectacular view for people walking it.

“It’s gorgeous,” she said. “You get a lot of unexpected views up there.”

The board gave Havre Trails its endorsement to continue working on the project.

The board also continued its discussion of creating a Frisbee golf, or folf, course on the park.

Montana State University-Northern donated its previous folf equipment, the poles used on the course, when it updated its course.

Edgar said his ideal location would be near the start of the Rotary Loop Trail. He said he thinks a nine-hole course would be enough, and the rest of the 18-hole material could be held in reserve if, for example, poles are broken or damaged.

He said the poles could be erected so they could be removed for the fall and winter, which could reduce the largest likely problem — cattle rubbing on the poles during the grazing season from the day after Labor Day to the first of each year.

The board agreed to keep the issue on the agenda for more discussion at its June meeting.

The board also agreed to send proposed revisions to ordinances governing haying and grazing to the Hill County Commission for approval.

The board also discussed options to dealing with beavers on the park.

Edgar said that the trapper is not able to continue his work, and no one has stepped up as of yet to take it over.

Board Chair Steve Mariani said something has to be done. The beavers are causing significant damage to the park.

“We have problems. Everybody knows we have problems,” he said.

Board member Renelle Braaten, who opposes trapping, said she is contacting people who could provide alternatives to trapping for controlling the beaver population.

She said she has contacted one man who could not attend a meeting until July, but she would try to arrange his presence at that meeting.

“He could give you answers,” she said.

Audience member Lowell Alcock suggested the board try out some alternatives.

“Give him a test plot and see what the results are,” he said. “ … See what they got.”

Edgar said park usage has generally been low, due to the inclement weather last month, but things are going well with some weeks and weekends very busy and getting the park prepared for summer usage progressing.

Edgar also told the board about some items he wants on the park budget for the next year, including a new pickup truck that he estimates would cost $20,000 to $30,000. He said one truck, “Old Blue,” is a 1988 model and still works but is starting to have some problems, especially pulling the trailer with the skidsteer and other equipment.

He wants to retire Old Blue to be a general usage truck, move the main truck int. the role Old Blue has now, and use the new truck as the main patrol truck.

He said if Old Blue is semi-retired, he expects he could get another 10 years out of it.

He said other work needed is to re-treat the logs in the Beaver Lodge and Chapel, which is needed every five to six years and now is eight years out, replacing the outmoded computer and printer used by the park office, and digging up, raising and shoring up the auto-pass or cattle guard into Camp Kiwanis.

He said the cattle guard is made from railroad rails and was told it weighs nearly five tons. It sinks significantly into the ground and needs to be raised and shored up. He said he is requesting bids from local contractors.

McLean said the job is something the Hill County Road Department will do, and she would look into that.


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