Park Board discusses 14-day rule and cross fence
August 4, 2020
The Hill County Park Board discussed, during its monthly meeting Monday, issues related to Beaver Creek Park’s 14-day rule and heard more public concern about the cross fence they were looking to put up in the park to prevent environmental damage via overgrazing.
Beaver Creek Park Superintendent Chad Edgar said the 14-day rule, which states that a person renting a campsite on the park can stay in it for 14 consecutive days in one month before having to moving sites, and the accompanying 48-hour rule which states that campers cannot leave there sites unattended for more than 48 hours have become difficult to enforce and have been the cause of many complaints recently.
Edgar and attendees at the meeting said people have been abusing the rule, leaving campers in place for days unattended, especially on weekdays and has led to sites being occupied even if they’re not really in use.
“It’s a tough rule to keep track of, for our staff, and for me,” Edgar said. “By the time we see that they’re over 14 days, sometimes it’s 20 days and that’s the biggest problem because that’s not fair to the people using the park.”
A member of the public who attended the meeting, who did not identify himself, said he’s witnessed the issue firsthand and said many people are hogging sites, disallowing others from making use of their favorite spots in the park or using the park altogether.
He said a lot of people come to camp on the weekends, but will leave their campers in for the weekdays without using it, and this is unfair for people who are only practically able to use it on weekdays.
“You’ve got rail workers, you’ve got homeland security, you’ve got policemen, you’ve got people out here that work 24-hour shifts, and they can’t use the park because people are being greedy and just unrespectful,” he said.
He suggested that the park board adopt a three-day rule instead because so many people use the park for weekends, but Edgar and members of the board said that might be a bit short and said there are plenty of people who do actually use the sites for a full week without abusing the system.
The 48-hour rule is meant to help monitor people abusing the system and Edgar did have a proposal for improving his and his staff’s ability to keep track of it.
He said he wanted to buy some stickers with light adhesive that park staff would put on campers that they noticed were unattended, the idea being that if they came back two days later and the sticker is still there the owner would be in violation of the rules and could have action taken against them.
Edgar said this policy would add to his workload somewhat, but he said he could use a spreadsheet of these stickers and that he’s confident that he would be able to keep up with this new system.
The audience member suggested shifting the 14-day rule before implementing the sticker idea, but Edgar said, the 14-day rule cannot be changed before the end of the summer and would require a change in ordinance that would need to be advertised to the public and would legally require a few more meetings, but the sticker system can be tired immediately.
Edgar said he is able to issue citations to people who break the rule which, depending on the decision of a judge, can result in up to $500 in fines, or even jail time, but he said he would leave severity of enforcement up to the board and can also do simple verbal warnings as well.
The board voted unanimously to implement the sticker idea and decided on bright orange as the color of the stickers for the sake of visibility.
Hill County Commissioner Diane McLean suggested hiring another person to help with operations like this, which Edgar said, would allow him to cover more ground on patrols, but no decisions were made.
Edgar also said the recent meeting of the Hill County Park Board’s Grazing Committee has been considering changing the location of the proposed cross fence that was discussed at the last meeting of the park board due in part to public concerns about it.
At last month’s meeting, Hill County Park Board Chair Tony Reum said there has been a persistent problem of cattle overgrazing areas of the park and the fence is meant to prevent that from happening, ensuring that cattle graze more evenly and not cause environmental damage.
However, multiple attendees of both meetings expressed disagreement or concern with the idea of putting in this fence, including the idea that it is not an aesthetically viable solution and conflicts with the desire of Beaver Creek Park users that the park remain as natural as possible.
One audience member proposed hazing cattle to keep them away from the areas that are being threatened by overgrazing.
“I figure you could hire just about any college kid or rodeo kid, you could damn near charge people to move your cattle around,” he said.
Lou Hagener suggested taking this opportunity to train cattle from a young age to stay in certain places.
Reum said hazing and herding have both been tried and proven ineffective. He said everything short of a fence has been attempted and has not solved the problem, which he fears could well end up ruining the ground in areas of the park.
Another member of the audience asked if the fence posed any issues for other animals migrating through the park, but Edgar said, the animals that do migrate through the area where the fence would be are more than capable of circumventing it.
Edgar said the matter of the fence’s placement would be discussed in more detail by the grazing committee at their next meeting in October.
He said the committee also voted to officially recommended the park board approve test spraying cheat grass on the north end of the park, which Edgar said is becoming a potential problem.
A motion was made to follow that recommendation and was voted for unanimously.
The board also briefly discussed fire restrictions.
McLean said Hill County would have a fire call this morning, but for now no restrictions are in place as far as she knows.
Edgar also provided an update on the park’s performance in general and said despite the unusual nature of this year things have gone relatively smoothly.
He said usage of the park has been high overall and has recently plateaued, however, he said, there have been no major complications or problems during this time of high usage and he and his staff have been very busy.
He said revenue is very strong this year due in large part to park permit sales.
Beaver Creek Park Superintendent Assistant Aubrey Williams said the park’s website is operating well and has processed $2,600 in online transactions.
Edgar said the park now has enough money to purchase a new vehicle. He said the matter will be put on the agenda for approval at the next meeting.
He also said new garbage can posts have been installed in the park and the sidewalk maintenance in Kiwanis is complete.
Edgar also provided an update on the Folf Course that was discussed at the previous meeting.
He said Havre Trails has purchased the removable baskets for the course and it will be installed this week by Rotary Pond.