Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has closed vehicle access to some state parks in northwest Montana this winter due to state budget cuts.
FWP’s regional parks operations budget — that’s money earmarked for daily maintenance of latrines, plowing and road upkeep — was cut by 20 percent following the state’s budget crisis. That means some state park roads that are normally plowed in winter will only be accessible by foot this season.
Dillon Tabish is Fish, Wildlife and Park’s Region 1 information and education program officer.
"We're not just closing these gates or not maintaining these roads in wintertime because want to. We would love to get as much access as we possibly can, it’s just we don’t have the resources to do all of this that we can. It's an unfortunate situation, but we had to make some difficult decisions because of the budget cuts."
Roads leading to several state parks on Flathead Lake and along the Highway 2 corridor will be closed due to the $60,000 shortfall in winter parks maintenance in FWP region 1. Foot traffic is allowed year-round on state park lands.
The decision appears to have drawn an act of vandalism: FWP officers are investigating a broken gate leading to Upper Thompson Lake southeast of Libby.
It is unclear how the budget cuts will affect state parks next spring and summer.
FWP is also investigating illegal firewood cutting throughout its management area between Kalispell and Libby.
FWP press release on winter road maintenance:
Due to state budget cuts, several roads that have historically been cleared of snow will not be maintained for winter access across northwest Montana. These roads include Boisverts on McGregor Lake and Logan State Park on Middle Thompson Lake. Additionally, some of the secondary roads that front Highway 2 West and provide camping and water access to the Lower, Middle and Upper Thompson Lakes will be closed during the winter months and early spring to prevent damage.
Winter road maintenance is also being discontinued at West Shore, Big Arm, Whitefish and Les Mason state parks. Walk-in access will not be impacted at any of the parks.
Lone Pine State Park in Kalispell will see reduced winter road maintenance with the Valley View Drive parking lot being closed for the winter. Plowing will be discontinued at the Foys Lake portion of Lone Pine but the Flathead County Parks and Recreation access site at Foys Lake will remain open. The Lone Pine Visitor Center parking lot will remain open for winter recreation.
For more information on winter recreation at Montana State Parks, please contact Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks at (406) 752-5501. For more information about Montana State Parks, please visit http://stateparks.mt.gov