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FWP considers changes to Whitefish River access

By Kevin Lessard, KCFW Reporter, klessard@kcfw.com
Published On: Apr 11 2014 05:55:20 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 11 2014 06:08:44 PM MDT
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Motorized boats on a part of the Whitefish River could soon be banned from being used.

It’s about a 3-mile stretch of the Whitefish River, from the bridge on J.P. Road to the train trestle near the mouth of Whitefish Lake.

The popular recreation spot was recently reopened after a multiyear cleanup effort. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Company was charged with cleaning up oil and other contaminants that polluted the river for years.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is considering banning motorized boats from a 3-mile stretch of the Whitefish River that currently allows them on a no-wake restriction.

Sonny Schierl paddleboards the river regularly and believes that the restrictions would benefit the river's ecosystem.

"It's in our hands to take care of something that, for years and years and years, was abused.  Now it's nice and clean and all that we're really asking for is to maintain this 3-mile stretch and keep it beautiful and keep it healthy and safe for people to use," Schierl said.

The stretch of the river in question is narrow and shallow for the most part.  Schierl believes that it could cause some serious safety concerns for eople recreating on the river, and also for boaters.

"It's a narrow river that winds, and if a boat were to come down it while a paddler would be paddling, that interaction might go haywire really quickly because of the boat might not being able to stop," said Schierl.

While most seem to be in favor of the new restrictions, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Lee Anderson says there are some who don't want to see these new rules passed.

"It's a historic use that people have had.  Do we really need to change things?  In order to do this, is there a real reason to do this?  Those are the real concerns that the opposition to it has had," Anderson said.

No decisions have been made yet on the restrictions, but FWP is expected to make a decision when they discuss it at their board meeting on June 12.