by Jim Crews, Stevensville
With all due respect, the council did not vote to turn the property back to the county.
The agenda item was to incorporate the donated land into the boundaries of the Stevensville River Park. The council vote was a tie, thus the issue died on the floor. That does not mean it is automatically transferred back to the county.
If you review the video of the meeting, you will see that the mayor did not call for public comment regarding this decision. At least two members of the council have notified town hall of the discrepancy and this should bring the item back before the council.
In my humble opinion the following would need to happen, I could be wrong but this seems to be the proper expected response.
If the town wants to turn the property back to the county, the county would have to either take action to take the property back, or the council would have to generate a resolution to abandon the property and turn it back to the county. The county would have to accept the property.
So as it is right now, the item needs to come before council again, public comment must be allowed and because this was accepted as park property, to be used as park and recreational property, allowing for river access, I think it is prudent that the Park Board be involved. They should evaluate the property, the needs and make a formal recommendation to the town council. That is their job.
This property is no more a liability than any of the other portions of the Stevensville River Park. As you are aware the north end of the park has a walking path running right next to the river bank which is precarious at best, especially when we have high water as the bank can be somewhat unstable. That is why it is good practice to restrict access to the Stevensville River Park during run off periods where the park floods and the water level is right at the high water mark and is moving very quickly. Council Member Wolf I do not believe is familiar with this action.
The property has in fact been in daily use as a recreational area for many folks taking lunch breaks, parking their vehicles on that side of the river instead of the FWP side because it gets very crowded at the launch site.
If you remember, the council gave permission to the mayor during the June 12th, 2017 meeting to start developing a plan to construct a River/Fishing Access Site at the Stevensville River Park. We started that process and at a proposed permanent site we constructed a temporary River/Fishing Access Site as authorized by the Town Council on July 10, 2017. We constructed a temporary site at the potential permanent location. $1000 was donated by a group that Dale Burke was a member in order to create this site. It was a success and it is still there, ready to be used. All that has to happen is the town needs to do a small amount of road maintenance.
FWP said the site would never survive. Guess what, its been 5 years and its still there and will continue to be there for many years more. The site was used heavily in 2017 with many positive comments. Why the last administration did not continue using it and maintaining it is beyond me. It can be used by kayakers, tubers, floaters, and we have the Stevensville River Park parking lot which is not part of the FWP site and it could help alleviate the traffic hazards.
Council Member Wolf thinks that the West Bank Property would be a traffic problem. It is not, has not been and will not be. The Stevensville River Road is the outlet, not the dirt path right at the end of the bridge and is no more of an issue than coming out on the FWP and Stevensville River Park Road. Which by the way, is the Stevensville River Park easement which cannot be blocked by the FWP traffic, which sometimes is a big issue.
The West Bank Property was desired because it is a viable launch site. I studied the site, drew up plans on my own time, investigated a low cost roller launch system which could be used from that side of the river.
As for the Mayor and Council Members Michalson and Wolf’s liability concern, I have lived in Stevensville since 1999. I cannot remember anyone getting hurt on that side of the river. I can however remember recently where an individual tripped and broke body parts on the sidewalk while trying to get into the council meeting at the meeting spot at the library.
My suggestions are as follows-the Park Board should review and evaluate then submit a plan to the Town Council as a recommendation to do the following;
1. Open the gate at the Stevensville River Park and allow access to launch and recover boats, kayaks, rafts and tubes. (We did the work, it was paid for privately, lets honor that commitment.)
2. Repair the road from the parking lot to the river launch site to at least the condition that we left it in in 2017.
3. Incorporate the West Bank Property into the Stevensville River Park as it should be, preserving this valuable property as public recreational property.