Brewery Flats future focus of Watershed Council meeting

By: 
DEB HILL
Managing Editor

Spring Creek flows through Brewery Flats in this aerial photo from 2001. The Big Spring Creek Watershed Council is considering creating a master plan to govern future development of the popular Brewery Flats area.

News-Argus File Photo

Three special guests attended the September meeting of the Big Spring Watershed Council to discuss the future of Brewery Flats.

Dave Byerly, Lewistown City Manager Holly Phelps and Park and City Recreation Director Jim Daniels proposed a project for the Council’s consideration: creation of a master plan for the future development of Brewery Flats.

“As we all know, Brewery Flats gets a lot of public use,” Byerly said. “The northern part is very natural but the southern section, being flat and open without a lot of trees, has a kind of industrial feel.”

Byerly, who told the group he was there as a private citizen, not as a city commissioner, said all the discussion about putting soccer fields in the area led him to the conclusion a master plan was needed.

“Because it’s flat and open, it’s prime land for development,” Byerly said. “I think we need to engage the community and see if there is an interest in finishing off Brewery Flats as a wild area. We might need a study to see what that would look like and what it would cost. This group might be the right group to take charge of something like that.”

Byerly added that while the current city commission is very supportive of keeping Brewery Flats as a natural area, a future city commission might not feel the same way.

“I’d like to see a plan, so in 20 or 30 years it’s clear this is a park, not a location for development,” Byerly said.

Daniels told the group the area currently is considered to be parkland, and was reclaimed as such.

“When the area was cleaned up, it was reclaimed consistent with standards for parkland and recreation areas,” Daniels said. “But even as parkland, it could be further developed.”

“We could go in and plant, put in another trail, maybe add a parking lot for the Turner Environmental Center,” Daniels added, explaining there is community interest in using the Center for both educational and social functions.

“Whatever happens would need to be done in conjunction with the parks department,” Daniels said.

Watershed Council Chairman Clay Dunlap requested input from the group on the idea of a Brewery Flats master plan.

Mike Lesnik described Brewery Flats as good for bird watching.

“We need to work on the noxious weeds, but currently we have a nice mix of habitats,” Lesnik said. “I would hate to see the south end planted with tall trees. Right now it’s good for seeing grassland bird species.”

Duane Ferdinand suggested using students from the MSU School of Architecture to develop a detailed master plan.

Al Eggers said he thought the Watershed Council should form an ad hoc committee to create a proposed design for the future of Brewery Flats.

Mike Getman suggested the Natural Resource Conservation Service might be able to assist with such planning.

Dunlap then added his thoughts.

“Lewistown is going to grow, sooner or later. It’s like a mini Bozeman,” he said. “That’s prime land out there [Brewery Flats], so I think we need to do something to say, ‘this is off limits.’”

A motion by Lesnik, seconded by Eggers, to create a committee to work on a master plan for Brewery Flats was unanimously approved.

Daniels asked that the group coordinate their efforts with the Parks and Recreation Board.

 

In other business:

• Eggers showed a short video created for a television news program, reporting on the Machler restoration. Discussion followed about whether trails in the Machler section would be developed or not. Clint Loomis said he’d been told there would not be a formal trail, only social trails created by fisherman. It was agreed to ask Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Clint Smith for an update on trail development.

• Dunlap expressed concern over aquatic vegetation in the ponds at the Big Spring Trout Hatchery. Dunlap thought the vegetation could be invasive. Getman suggested Dunlap take a sample of the vegetation to Smith for identification, and Dunlap said he’d do so within the next couple of days.

• In a short discussion about updating the Big Spring Watershed Council’s strategic plan, which was created in 2009, it appeared no one in the group now has a copy of the plan. Ferdinand agreed to search out and provide a copy of the plan.

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