Hell Creek State Park Update

By Rep. Ken Holmlund

Sometime ago I wrote the first of what I think will be several updates on what has been happening concerning Hell Creek. It is my intention to keep you informed so you have the facts to counter rumors that seem to circulate faster than facts.

First, let me have you understand that the work being done is of a bi-partisan nature as it should be. This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue, but, rather a state wide concern. Along with myself has been Representative Bridget Smith and Representative Virginia Court from Billings as well as Senator Mike Lang from Malta. Many more are interested in hearing what is happening and I have set up a group email of legislators to do just that.

I have four concerns that top my list of things that must be addressed. I am sure many of you have others that you would like to address but taking too big of a bite of the apple can make the project too wieldy and difficult.

Concerns one and two are being addressed by the Parks Department. They are the health and safety issues of drinking water and sewer. Parks had a survey done and those were the most pressing issues on the list so they are using a large portion of the funds at their disposal from the 2015 session in that regard. The funds were earmarked for Hell Creek and will be used for the assigned location. The current plan is to do the engineering work done, possibly late this year, and get the work done during 2018.

Number three on my list is the registration system that misleads people from across the state as to the availability of camp sites at the lake. The department is currently in the process of working on a new contract with the company that provides the system and they feel they can get a better handle on the issue with that contract. In addition, the temporary head of the department has expressed to me that she will put a banner placed on the top of the current registration site that will explain that sites are almost always available and that not all electrified camping sites are allowed to be reserved so they may be available as well. This isn’t a perfect answer but it is better than what we have now.

Number four, and the most taxing and expensive is repairing the road to make the park more accessible. From discussions with knowledgeable people in the industry, the road has no binder left that can hold the dirt in place so just grading it will not solve the problem. What is needed is a layer of around three inches of crushed gravel, topped by a spraying of a healthy dose of magnesium chloride to hold it in place. Merely spraying the material on the current road will cut down on the dust but will not keep the potholes from coming back.

There are some drawbacks to using the spray-mostly how slick it becomes when wet-but it seems like the most viable method at present. The spray will have to be reapplied for three or four years to really do the job at a cost of around $1,500 a time. I do not have an estimate from the contractor as to the cost of the initial work but some funds have been placed in the HB 2 process for the road. If it makes it through to signing we will be able to begin the expensive process of holding the road together. I have done all I can in the process and it depends on others to do what I feel is the right thing for Eastern Montana.

One other idea has surfaced that would use the asphalt that is ground off when the State Highway Department resurfaces a stretch of highway. This idea is still in its infancy and I don’t know if it is practical or not. More on this later if it looks like a real possibility.

The Parks board signed an agreement last week to not close any parks or take away any recreational areas from the general public. This is a big step back from the talk of two years ago when it was apparent they intended to close several group 3 and 4 parks, including Hell Creek. I know this will not cover all the needs of the park but we are making headway and all those who are working to keep the park open are committed to doing what is necessary to achieve the goal.

If you have questions or suggestions, please send them to me at Rep.ken.holmlund@mt.gov or send a letter to me at 1612 Tompy St., Miles City, Mont. 59301. I would love to hear from you since you are who we work for in the legislature.