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Montana Parks to Compete With Private Sector

July 20, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

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

The plans are being met with some harsh criticism from primitive camping enthusiasts and small business advocates, who see the proposals as a case of state government competing with private business, according to the Great Falls Tribune

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. 

Parks officials said they tried to address some of the public’s concerns in the latest round of proposals. Charles Van Genderen, administrator of FWP’s parks division, said the agency is responding to the increasing number of RV users who stay at state park campgrounds. 

“(Critics of electrification) don’t understand (the) conflict that our staff is put into because people are complaining about generator noise and exhaust fumes because we don’t have electricity,” Van Genderen said. “And so our staffs are trying to interpret the fact that people have the right to run the generator for a little while and, at the same time, we’re going around at night asking folks to turn off their television at 10 p.m. because its quiet hour and their battery can’t run their television.” 

Van Genderen said the development plans are designed to expand opportunities for a wider spectrum of users.

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