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Fort Smith, MT – During the public meeting on Thursday, June 9, 2011 to review new proposals for work at the Afterbay Dam North River Access and the 3-Mile River Ranch Access, the proposal recommending work starting as soon as possible was determined to have the least impact to stakeholders. It was also recommended that work begin at 3-Mile parking and launch ramp first according to park Superintendent Jerry Case. A similar public meeting held late last month led to a range of proposals for the project from which the final schedule was refined and discussed on Thursday.
The project will close the 3-Mile parking lot and launch ramp for a 2 week period (two 5 day periods) starting on Tuesday, June 14 for hauling, spreading, and grading aggregate and base in the parking lot. Truck traffic and heavy machinery will make use of the parking lot and launch ramp unsafe for launching, retrieving, and parking of vehicles and trailers. The launch ramp and parking lot will be available for weekend use.
When the planned work at 3-Mile is finished construction activities will move to Afterbay parking lot and launch ramp area. During the construction period at Afterbay the launch ramp will be available for launching from sunrise to 9 a.m. daily, except when drainage work and grading occur. This will likely be less than 5 days total. Frequently construction activities will allow launching after 9 a.m. daily. The launch ramp and parking lot will be available on weekends. The overflow lot will be available for parking and the launch ramp on the south side, across from Afterbay launch, will be available. Caution is advised when using this ramp during high water flows.
The project represents the first major improvements to the two sites since the park was created in 1968. Since the sites were originally built, use by anglers and other visitors had dramatically increased. The two sites now support a high volume of traffic and are used by large recreational vehicles with trailers hauling boats. This has caused safety problems with vehicles sliding into the river at the ramp facilities and becoming stuck in ditches alongside the sites. In addition, parking is difficult and could be dangerous for all vehicles. As currently constructed, the launch ramps are subject to erosion, deteriorating road surfaces and flooding.
Both sites will be improved as part of the project. The park will replace the leaking vault toilet at the Afterbay site and improve drainage of the parking areas. Under a normal construction schedule, project construction could take several weeks at each site.