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Town, FWP examine options for Stevensville Fishing Access Site

FWP Regional FAS Manager Rory Zarling discusses the particular difficulties that would have to be overcome in constructing a turn-around for trucks with trailers at one of the potential boat launch sites under consideration in Stevensville River Park. Michael Howell photo.

By Michael Howell

Officials from Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Town of Stevensville, along with some members of the public, toured a few potential fishing access sites last week that could possibly be developed to replace the current fishing access site at the Stevensville bridge. Land owner Roy Capp, who owns the rocky river bank adjacent to the bridge where the public presently launches boats, has threatened to close the access site to the public by the end of March if the town of Stevensville fails to agree to a proposed land swap.
This winter Capp offered to trade about three acres of land at the bridge, located between the Stevensville Cut-Off Road and the Stevensville River Park, and an additional 1.5 acre piece of land located in the right-of-way along the eastside highway across from the U.S. Forest Service headquarters on the north end of town, for eight acres of the town’s River Park land at the north end of the park. The offer was examined by the Stevensville Park Board at a few public meetings and drew some stiff opposition from some members of the public. Several members of the public asked that other options be considered, but when a list of options was presented to Capp, the rancher turned down all the proposed options, including outright purchase of the three acres for the appraised value of $5,500 per acre. The Park Board eventually referred the matter to the Stevensville Town Council with the recommendation that the issue be placed on the ballot since the law requires that any sale or exchange of dedicated land, like a town park, be placed on the ballot for a public vote.
After some delay in placing the issue on the town council agenda, Mayor Jim Crews recently sent a letter to both FWP and the Capps requesting that they submit something in writing that he could present to the council.
At the meeting on the river bank last Friday, Crews stated that he sent the letters because all the town had was a copy of a power point presentation. He said that what he needed was a written document describing the exact terms of the trade being offered and stating the various roles and responsibilities of all the parties involved in establishing and maintaining the FAS. He said the town was also interested in determining the feasibility of any other options that could resolve the issue, such as relocating the FAS to an alternative site.
“We are just doing our due diligence here in looking at some other potential alternatives,” said Crews.
The group, which included Rory Zarling, FWP’s FAS manager, Pat Saffel, FWP fisheries manager, and Chris Clancy, FWP fisheries biologist, as well as the Mayor, Streets and Alley Supervisor Ed Sutherlin, and Park Board Chair Tonya Eckert, as well as members of the public, examined about three other potential sites north of the current boat launching site on land owned by the town of Stevensville. The group also examined two sites located on the opposite side of the river immediately adjacent to the bridge. The potential site on the southwest side of the bridge would require the purchase of some private property. The potential site on the northwest side of the bridge is on land believed to be owned by the county.
Specific pros and cons related to the construction and use of a boat launch were discussed in great detail at each of the potential sites. Although access to the river bank in the town’s park, north of the old dump site, appears feasible, FWP engineers would still have to take a hard look at it before that determination could really be made. The same holds true of the other potential sites on the west side of the bridge, which would also require some engineering to make a workable boat launch.
It was agreed to contact the property owners on the west side to see if the purchase or use of the land was feasible.

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