State parks manager briefs commissioners on Ackley Lake

Managing Editor

A discussion of the future of Ackley Lake State Park took up most Wednesday’s meeting of the Fergus County Board of Commissioners.

John Taillie, Regional Manager for Montana State Parks, addressed commissioners Carl Seilstad and Sandy Youngbauer, reporting on a proposal that would remove state park status from Ackley Lake.

“State Parks is seriously considering pulling out of Ackley Lake,” Taillie said. “The State Parks board voted to extend our lease on the lake until December, 2017, to allow time for other groups to come up with proposals.”

Taillie said he is charged with putting together a transition team to develop ideas for how to continue the recreational uses on the lake after it is no longer a state park.

“To be a state park, a property must be significant, relevant and accessible,” Taillie said, explaining one difficulty with Ackley Lake is the land is not owned by State Parks, but leased from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

Taillie said Hell Creek State Park on Fort Peck might also be removed from the state park system.

“State Parks has been understaffed and underfunded all 25 years that I’ve worked for the department,” Taillie said. “We are quantifying our needs so we can begin to address the underfunding situation.”

Seilstad asked how many of Montana’s 55 state parks are located in eastern Montana as compared with western Montana.

“I don’t know the numbers but the majority are west of Great Falls,” Taillie said.

“We are really at a disadvantage if you take out Ackley and Hell Creek. People will have to go clear to the western side of the state to visit a state park,” Seilstad said. “I see a real disapportionment here.”

Taillie said about 30,000 visits per year are recorded at Ackley Lake, and more than 60,000 at Hell Creek.

“There’s no prejudicial feeling against parks in the east,” Taillie said. “Basically these two parks are leased, and we have huge infrastructure issues at Hell Creek.”

Youngbauer asked Taillie whether it would benefit the State Parks division to break off from Fish and Wildlife and become its own organization. She also suggested taking the fish counter out at Tyber reservoir and using that money to fund Ackley Lake.

“We can’t take fish and wildlife funds for parks,” Taillie said, adding the budget for Ackley Lake last year was $12,398, to pay for a caretaker, operations and travel.

Different options for the park, he said, include a fishing access site, keep it a state park or turn it over to the DNRC and find a local group to help run it.

“Ackley is tricky,” he explained. “We can’t even get a campground host because there is no water or power available.”


In Other Business

·    The county commissioners appointed a road viewers committee consisting of Road and Bridge Department Supervisor John Anderson and Youngbauer, for Box Elder Lane.

·    August claims were approved.

·    Youngbauer announced the County has openings in the Road Department, County Planning Department, Clerk and Recorder’s office and the Treasurer’s office.

·    The next meeting of the commissioners will be Tuesday, Aug. 30 at 2 p.m.



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