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FWP wants to build $40K visitor center

2012-02-28T00:04:00Z FWP wants to build $40K visitor centerBy EVE BYRON, Independent Record Helena Independent Record
February 28, 2012 12:04 am  • 

A $40,000 visitor center, complete with Internet access, could be erected this spring at the Black Sandy State Park and campground, under a proposal put forth Monday by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The new prefabricated 16-foot-by-24-foot concrete building would be installed on a pad next to the campground host site. The structure would be wired with electricity, which has been trenched to the proposed location as part of the fall 2010 effort to electrify the campground.

Currently, an 8-foot-by-12-foot wooden structure is at the site.

Internet access is important, FWP noted in a recently released Environmental Assessment, because last year, state parks initiated an Internet-based reservation system at the popular park 14 miles north of Helena. However, while convenient for visitors, the staff at the park weren’t able to monitor or manage the reservations “because the small office became too hot for staff or storage of electronic equipment and a wireless connection to the Internet was limited.”

Instead, campsite reservations were handled at the FWP office in Helena, and difficulties arose during the peak summer season, when timely changes to reservations were required.

“We had some problems if people walked in and wanted a site, or wanted to make a change like extending their stay for a day or cancel a day early,” said Jerry Walker, FWP regional park manager. “We had a wireless Internet system at the park, but could use it only intermittently due to the topography out there.”

The site also doesn’t have cell service. Walker said they’re considering installing an antenna to improve both cell and Internet service.

He added that people seemed to like the reservation system. Popular sites like Black Sandy’s campground often fill during the summer, and people wanted some certainty if they traveled to the site that room was available for them.

“We got nothing but accolades for the reservation system,” Walker said. “We had a couple of glitches but nothing major that we couldn’t work through.”

In the assessment, FWP reports that the addition of a formal visitor center, which would provide a place to greet campers, boaters and others, would make the park staff more efficient and improve the system. That would increase customer satisfaction, which in turn could increase the number of visitors to the park and increase revenues generated at the park.

The 15-acre site has a day-use area, boat launch, latrines, picnic areas and 35 camping sites. About 45,000 people use the park annually, mainly during the summer, although it is open year-round.

Walker said that the response last summer also was fairly positive to the electrical upgrades.

“We heard from users that would go out there early, when it was still cold out and they were appreciative for the electricity so they could run their motors,” Walker said. “We also heard from people with disabilities; one person was on oxygen and needed the electricity to run that.”

FWP outlines three options in the assessment. The state agency could leave matters as they stand, but believes that people may be negatively impacted when changes to reservations are delayed. They could go with the new building, which could increase revenues, increase visitors to the park and prevent vandalism by having more of a presence at the facility.

A third option, which FWP eliminated from further consideration, would be to improve the current wooden building and install wireless Internet. However, the building still would be too hot in the summer, is too confined to meet with visitors and “does not provide the professional appearance that is desirable in the state park system,” according to the assessment.

If the public desires, FWP will hold a meeting on the proposal. Otherwise, people can read the assessment online by following the link in this story online. They also can pick up a hard copy at FWP’s Helena Area Resource Office at 930 Custer Ave.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. pichia
    Report Abuse
    pichia - February 29, 2012 3:55 pm
    Evotis said: "Nobody goes to Black Sandy for a nice "quiet weekend at the lake" nor for a "true outdoor experience". Black Sandy has developed in response to the insane crowds that are a constant fixture from May thru September. @Justme, I have three young girls and they like to ride their trikes around the grounds on pavement,shower at night, and go potty on a toilet. I'll gladly pay the few bucks for those "liberal" advances in technology. If I want to go "camping" and enjoy a true "outdoor experience" I'll grab a backpack."

    Lots of people go camping with their kids and teach them things like; fishing, hiking, gathering kindling, singing campfire songs, bird watching, looking for wildlife, even card games.

    If you want the girls to ride their trikes, then keep them at home on the sidewalk. Most of us don't leave our homes on the weekend to put up a tent next to anther sidewalk. And seriously, showers? Whatever happened to getting a little dirty and using cold cold river water to rinse off? Oh, and I seem to remember vividly pit toilets being quite the luxury at a campsite.

    Sounds like you and your family would be perfectly happy in a hotel next to a nice lake. I can offer some suggestions.
  2. steeline
    Report Abuse
    steeline - February 29, 2012 1:35 pm
    Evotis, I bet when you go with your "back pack" to a quiet place you are one of the folks who want to block all the land off for public access, logging, minning, and love to see the wolves romping accross the meadow with a baby elk flopping in their mouths. Am I right?
  3. Evotis
    Report Abuse
    Evotis - February 28, 2012 8:18 pm
    Nobody goes to Black Sandy for a nice "quiet weekend at the lake" nor for a "true outdoor experience". Black Sandy has developed in response to the insane crowds that are a constant fixture from May thru September.

    @Justme, I have three young girls and they like to ride their trikes around the grounds on pavement,shower at night, and go potty on a toilet. I'll gladly pay the few bucks for those "liberal" advances in technology. If I want to go "camping" and enjoy a true "outdoor experience" I'll grab a backpack.
  4. hadenough
    Report Abuse
    hadenough - February 28, 2012 3:48 pm
    Evotis said: "There's no reasoning or compromise with the broken record from the party of "NO!". My family and I appreciate having paved roads and camp spots, electricity, toilets, showers, landscaping,and some semblance of organization and security. All of that takes money and the fees are very reasonable. If they have some left over to erect a visitor info center than so be it. "

    Everything is becoming so commercialized and fancy that it's taking away from the true outdoor experience. I don't go to the lake under the assumption of having power and showers! Soon enough there won't be any place reasonable for the little guy to enjoy a quiet weekend at the lake. And besides all this, there is NO ROOM out there for more buildings!!! Try parking a boat trailer once...THERE IS NO ROOM!!!

  5. justme59601
    Report Abuse
    justme59601 - February 28, 2012 2:05 pm
    Evotis said: "There's no reasoning or compromise with the broken record from the party of "NO!". My family and I appreciate having paved roads and camp spots, electricity, toilets, showers, landscaping,and some semblance of organization and security. All of that takes money and the fees are very reasonable. If they have some left over to erect a visitor info center than so be it. "

    spoken like a true liberal LOL do you know why there's no paved roads, electricity, showers, flush toilets, or security?? it's called CAMPING. maybe you should considered the holiday inn or super 8 in town.

  6. Evotis
    Report Abuse
    Evotis - February 28, 2012 11:42 am
    There's no reasoning or compromise with the broken record from the party of "NO!".

    My family and I appreciate having paved roads and camp spots, electricity, toilets, showers, landscaping,and some semblance of organization and security. All of that takes money and the fees are very reasonable. If they have some left over to erect a visitor info center than so be it.
  7. steeline
    Report Abuse
    steeline - February 28, 2012 10:22 am
    Another hair brained government idea. Just do away with the reservations. Black Sandy camp grounds have been there for a long time without reservations. The reservations cause all kinds of trouble for locals that just want to get out on the spur of the moment on a first come first serve bases. We damn sure don't need a computor teck out there trying to keep track of campers. First come first serve has worked out fine in the past and will work out fine in the future. They are digging a money hole, what next?
  8. Tri-pleX
    Report Abuse
    Tri-pleX - February 28, 2012 9:30 am
    This doesn't sound like it is just a proposal. If electricity has already been run to the proposed site in preparation for this proposal then it has been in the works for some time and will likely happen whether authorized or not.
    Sounds like they are turning a remote camping site into a hotel. Will the electricity be providing hot towels for the rich tourests in their hals a million dollar motor homes? Will the reservation system also book massage appointments?
  9. hadenough
    Report Abuse
    hadenough - February 28, 2012 9:22 am
    While I can appreciate the need for quick monitoring of the reservation system for patrons coming to the campground, I don't understand where FWP thinks they are going to put this bldg. AS it stands, there is no room now for extra vehicles, no room to park boat trailers and no room for kids to ride their bikes or play. I'm a Helena native and I have camped at Black Sandy for a very long time. It seems that the more changes that are made to the campground, the less room there is for people to spread out and enjoy themselves and do some ol' fashioned camping. The electricity is nice upgrade for oxygen users, etc. But if you want cell phone service DON'T GO CAMPING!!!
  10. Innie2012
    Report Abuse
    Innie2012 - February 28, 2012 8:47 am
    Agreed! That's great!! They don't get their budget from the General Fund, so this is a really great thing! Surprised they can afford to do this.
  11. quartercircle
    Report Abuse
    quartercircle - February 28, 2012 7:55 am
    Another good reason for the fish and Duck Dept. to increase the cost of hunting licenses.

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