River access sites across the state are getting more use than ever. Many are undeveloped or not built with this kind of traffic in mind. However, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff in Region 2 are trying to improve that. The unofficial access site at Stevensville Bridge, newly named John Owen FAS, is getting some much needed TLC and a few improvements sure to make anglers enjoying the beautiful Bitterroot River a little happier.
Once used as the town dump, large amounts of metal trash were illegally left on the adjacent private lands when the dump site closed. Thanks to a generous donation by the local landowner, FWP recently acquired this adjacent acreage and needed to clean it up before starting construction. On October 20, 2021, a crisp fall morning, FWP staff, BHA staff and volunteers got to work with buckets and heavy gloves, carefully pulling metal debris out of the dirt. Many of these hard workers noted that rusted metal and fall cottonwood leaves were not easy to distinguish from each other.
The work was hard and trash ranged from old sheet metal that fell apart as soon as it was picked up, abandoned barbed wire, old bricks and chunks of concrete, to multistrand wire rope buried deep in the ground. By the end of the afternoon, 1,400 pounds of metal was cleared from the site and recycled.
FWP plans to use this land to build paved truck and trailer parking spots and a few campsites. They've already begun work revegetating the riverbank that was trampled while being used as the unofficial parking area. Well-vegetated river banks protect from erosion and are more resilient to high water events. The next steps in construction are anticipated to begin in spring 2022, and we look forward to providing further assistance in the future to make this site a reality.