Thoughts on Blankenship

| August 12, 2020 6:33 AM

I appreciate your time spent and your insight in your recent article titled “A Not So Scenic Sight on Flathead”. My family have been utilizing the free camping at Blankenship bridge for well over a decade. My family and I have been residents of Flathead County, just south of Columbia Falls for close to 20 years. Our previous home was Lake County. Being someone who enjoys the camping site, it is evident how it has become a problem.

Although I absolutely believe that attention is needed in regards to the issue of over congestion at the bridge, I find it extremely disturbing that your final conclusion is to just make it illegal to camp overnight. The residents of this state should not have more restrictions placed on there access to recreation. I live in Montana for a reason. The Forest Service manages over 16.8 million acres of land in Montana. How much of that is accessible for the average family? Let alone on a body of water. The issue is needing more access and more opportunities for those seeking the outdoor life, not less. Does it drive me crazy that as a local I can’t enjoy the same things I used to due to those from out of state? Absolutely, but if I came through Montana, I wouldn’t want to leave either. Just two years ago, we would camp and maybe see four other campers on any given weekend.

You referred to the WSR act of 1968. Is the camping on the side of the river affecting the “flow” of the river? Is camping not recreational? On the rivers.gov website it states, “The Act is notable for safeguarding the special character of these rivers, while also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development.” I think many would view camping as “appropriate use”. If you want complete solitude on the river go for a short drive north and you have it. The river is there to be enjoyed especially for those who live here permanently and pay our taxes.

The problem of more people coming into the state is not going to go away. We need to deal with it in a responsible manner. Restrooms available? Maybe. No large Campers? Maybe. Develop the area? Maybe. Let the very people who live here decide. When you shut down places that were once open your hurting the very people that live here for those places. Camping is just as good for the soul as all the other Montana traditions. Especially, on a river as beautiful as the Flathead.

As far as people parking to float? Expand it. Too many people parked at the bridge? Add more exit points on the river? Develop the ones we have. Make the Teakettle/ House of Mystery spot not constricted to 15 feet and a death trap to get out on the highway. These issues are the very thing that would get me involved in the political arena.

In conclusion, issues need to be addressed. They need to be addressed... not shut down and swept under the rug or made illegal. If you want to regulate certain activities, put it to a vote. Get feed back. Do not restrict, expand. There is plenty of land in Montana for us all. See what the people have to say. The Forest Service should listen to the people who live here. The locals deserve better and everyone should be ashamed for suggesting to restrict the very thing that makes us Montanans.

Travis Keele

Columbia Falls