FWP Seeks to Electrify Parks – Again.

by jhwygirl

Just over a year ago Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks scrapped a plan to electrify several parks, including Salmon Lake, West Shore in Lake County, and Placid Lake campgrounds, due to public outcry against the project. The Indy’s George Ochenski, a matter of fact, mentioned the fiasco just a few short weeks ago.

Now, here we come barely 15 months later, and FWP is at it again. From the Great Falls Tribune (only story I could find):

The Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks has renewed plans to electrify campsites at several state parks across Montana.

A similar set of proposals stalled last spring after the agency received dozens of public comments highlighting a rift between traditional camping enthusiasts, who prefer dark skies and natural landscapes while camping, and recreational vehicle users who want to use electrical appliances. Critics also slammed the agency for violating the state’s “Good Neighbor Policy” and competing with private businesses.

The agency is seeking public comment on the proposals to install electrical pedestals and other new developments to campgrounds at Beavertail Hill, Salmon Lake, Lewis and Clark Caverns, Black Sandy and Placid Lake state parks. The plans call for adding 102 electrical pedestals to the state park system, adding outdoor lights and paving roads at a combined cost of about $726,000. Campground fees will increase by $5 at electrified sites, from $15 per night to $20 per night.

Doesn’t the Governor have something called the 20-10 initiative? Something about conserving energy? Using less energy?

Awww…It was just another one of the Good Gov’s jokes!

I know – maybe the electricity FWP uses doesn’t count if it isn’t metered. Because you know these aren’t going to be metered – All You Can Use Electricity, 5 Bucks – Montana, Where a Kw Won’t Cost You What It Costs Us.

The Good Neighbor Policy also requires that the state take care of maintenance backlog before it spend money on development. We’ve got maintenance issues galore with FWP – Montanans could use improved fishing access sites – Montanans could use paving of parks that are near residential areas to reduce dust and air quality issues – Montanans could use more enforcement – Montanans could use some help with portages around the scores of obstructions that line our waterways – and FWP wants $726,000 to electrify 5 state parks? And then charge more to campers that use those sites?

I’m sorry – maybe FWP isn’t aware that 84% of the people who use our state parks are state residents.

Who are we electrifying these parks for? Out-of-state gas guzzling RV’s? That have fridges and microwaves and washers and dryers and televisions and satellite dishes? Those people?

Those people should be staying at a local motel if they need that much stuff – instead of loading up groceries at their local hometown and merely purchasing diesel fuel as they move through the state.

I doubt those campgrounds are sitting empty, either – I know Placid Lake and Salmon Lake campgrounds aren’t. In other words, Montana isn’t needing to electrify its campsites to get people to hang out in our campgrounds.

In a Great Falls Tribune article from last year’s attempt to electrify, former legislator and (then) outgoing Public Service Commissioner Bob Raney had lots to say:

Bob Raney sharply criticized FWP’s plans to electrify campsites at Salmon Lake, West Shore, Placid Lake and Lewis & Clark Caverns state parks in an interview last week. Raney, who fought in the Legislature throughout the 1990s to keep development of the parks at bay, said the proposals send the wrong message about energy conservation, would increase the state’s maintenance costs and electricity bills and eventually would lead to higher user fees.

“Not only are we literally giving electricity away to the people who come to the campgrounds, but we’re also promoting the use of vehicles that get three or four miles to the gallon,” Raney said. “We’ve got a governor who says he wants state agencies to cut 20 percent of their electricity use by 2010, yet his parks department is developing electricity products at campgrounds right in the face of his ‘let’s use less’ program.”

Same holds true today, no?

FWP is seeking public comment on the proposals – following is the list of scoping notices. You might want to copy your local legislator while you’re at it….and maybe even a letter to the editor if you have the time.

West Shore State Park, due August 26th.
Beavertail Hill State Park, due August 10th.
Salmon Lake State Park, due August 10th.
Placid Lake State Park, due August 10th.
Big Sandy State Park, due July 27th.
Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, due July 24th.

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  1. If’n folks want electricity, shouldn’t they stay at the local KOA? I don’t think State Parks should be competing against those much-more-developed options. Keep the basic, unlit camping on State land and let the private operators run the fancy places.

    • Ochenski

      You got it right, Binky. The really big deal here is that the high-end KOAs and other private campgrounds also pay taxes — which state parks obviously don’t do (other than the bed tax). So, not only does the Schweitzer administration wind up using more, not less energy, it also competes directly with private, tax-paying businesses, thus reducing state revenues. And for what? So monster RVs can run air conditioners all night while the poor tent camper tries to sleep in what is supposed to be the silence of nature. Oh, and RV sales are down about 70% in the last year (no surprise), so this is really a forward-looking plan, isn’t it?

  2. Anon

    Interesting. I have a travel trailer that can use electricity. I also have NO problem going to a campground that doesn’t have it available and do so occasionally. Agree, you want hookups, go to a KOA.

    • Wayne

      Why should the State spend that much money for electrification?
      We want our State Parks to become KOA’s or RV
      camp spots?
      Is that what the owners of these Parks (us Montana Citizens) want?
      And why would the Govt. encourage more use of resources – electricity?
      Where will we all go if we do not want these types of campgrounds by a Lake or stream?
      I don;t think these FWP people get it in these current economic times.
      Why are they catering to the wealthier folks? These people can use KOA’s.




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