By Martin J. Kidston
A local citizens group calling itself Friends of Beaver Creek gathered last Thursday night in the Havre city council chambers to check the progress of road improvements expected to have an impact on Beaver Creek Park.
Friends of Beaver Creek, headed by volunteer Lin Nelson, gathered last week in hopes of gaining the ears of local and state authorities. The groups objective, that of monitoring and developing alternatives to road construction and fence erection in the park, has become a spirited move to overcome what some see as a lack of action by local leaders, and a tyrannical move by small government.
The Hill County Commissioners didnt show up, neither did the parks caretaker, Nelson said. In fact, they have never shown up, even though weve personally called on each occasion to invite them.
Despite the no-show by authorities, Nelson said more than 30 people did attend the meeting.
Mr. Larry Nitz provided us with some good information on the rights of the handicap and the loss of accessibility if all those gates and cattle guards go in, Nelson said. He said it may go against the Disabled Americans Act, and could possibly result in a lawsuit.
Nelson said Larry Otto, a member of the Montana DOTs maintenance division, was also on hand to answer questions.
He said that any change in speed limit must go before the traffic engineers office, via the county, Nelson said. That office has a back log of 500 requests from across the state. So, as you can see, the chances of us getting a speed limit reduction are almost zilch.
Nelson and others believe that simply lowering the parks speed limit would reduce the number of cattle-car accidents on the winding, country road. However, the DOT, with the countys backing, intends to do the opposite by making the road both wider and faster, building banks and raising speeds.
Beaver Creek Park, the largest county-owned park in the country, is dissected by Route 234. Running as the north-south passage between Havre and the Rocky Boy Recreation Area, the road has been the focus of controversy every since Mike Langenfus of the Montana DOT told residents that more than 10 miles of fence would be installed to eliminate road hazards.
Langenfus named car-cattle accidents as the main reason the DOT is helping the county pay for the $5 million road and fencing project, sighting a responsibility to provide safer roads to the traveling public. Hill County Commissioners accepted the financing as the only way to pay for what some see as necessary improvements to the route.
However, the Friends of Beaver Creek Citizens Group isnt as content. The group has been looking for a way to stave off the project until alternatives have been found. In early July, Nelson and Friends of Beaver Creek gathered 1,500 signatures opposing the proposed fencing project.
The next meeting will be at the city council chambers on Thursday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.