The Saratoga Sun -

Public gets RAMPed up: Community members express concerns/anticipation regarding North Platte River plan

 

Doug Radunich

Saratoga resident Royce Kelley shares his opinion during BLM’s public meeting Thursday. Kelley said he believes the Platte Valley will not see a large influx of people with the BLM’s proposed improvements.

Community members express concerns/anticipation regarding North Platte River plan

Stakeholders in the North Platte River shared opposing views in a meeting Thursday designed to explain proposed changes to the North Platte River.

Bureau of Land Management representatives gave the public another opportunity to share their concerns regarding their North Platte River Recreation Area Management Plan (RAMP) last week at the Platte Valley Community Center. The public meeting, hosted by the Saratoga/Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce Thursday evening, allowed Platte Valley residents to both learn more about and give feedback on the Wyoming BLM’s proposals for the North Platte River area. These proposals would change or add campsites, boat launches, parking areas and lots, tent sites and other facilities in areas near the river.

Several outfitters, fishermen and river recreationists attended the two-hour meeting, which was advertised by outfitter Mitch Bangert. Those in the audience either agreed with the BLM’s proposed plans or gave opposing views, with hopes that BLM representatives could change their plan on certain issues.

In attendance from the BLM were field manager Dennis Carpenter, outdoor recreation planner Christopher Jones and public affairs specialist Serena Baker. Before the presentation began, A Bar A Ranch Manager Justin Howe asked if any public comment could affect the makeup or follow through of the RAMP.

Carpenter responded by saying the plan was still just a proposed, unsigned plan.

“At this point it’s a proposed plan. It hasn’t been signed, it’s not a done deal. Our goal is to present the plan to you as it has been written,” he said.

The BLM gave a PowerPoint presentation on the proposed RAMP, followed by the comment and question period allowing individuals to speak. The presentation was given by Jones and Carpenter.

“Our goal is to inform the public so you know what we’re doing, and we’re to manage this for the public and not for ourselves,” Carpenter said. “We want to make sure you know what this plan says and how we plan to implement it, and what it will do or what it won’t do. I hope you get that out of tonight’s presentation, and we’ll see how it comes out.”

BLM officials handed out a packet on the North Platte RAMP, which included seven photographed bird’s-eye-view maps indicating proposed additions and changes along the North Platte River. Jones noted that the changes to sites such as Big Creek, Corral Creek, Prospect Creek Road and boat-in campgrounds would require individual public comment periods.

The description of each map in the packet is as follows:

Map 1 showed the area for the proposed campground, boat launch and pit toilet for a proposed boat-in campground along the river.

Map 2 showed the area for the proposed overflow parking, expansion of the boat ramp, and educational kiosk at Bennett Peak.

Map 3 showed the area for the proposed parking area, boat ramp, tent sites and improved two-track and turnaround at Corral Creek.

Map 4a showed the area for the proposed campsite, additional parking, passing pull-off and reroute of the two-track and turnaround at Prospect Access.

Map 4b showed the area for the reroute of Prospect Creek Road at Prospect Access.

Map 5a showed the area for the preferred alternative for the Big Creek Access Route, and Alternative 1 for the improvement of Existing Access Route to F.S. 211.

Map 5b showed the area for the proposed improved two-track and roundabout, parking areas and boat launch at Big Creek Access.

Also included in the packet was a photo of the Bennett Peak Boat Ramp Parking Lot on peak use weekend, in order to show how crowded the lot has been on heavily-used weekends such as Memorial Day Weekend or Fourth-of-July Weekend. Bangert had also handed out a self-made packet including key actions, existing conditions and preferred alternatives involved with the RAMP.

Some community members agreed with the RAMP because of its easier and more convenient access areas, while others gave questions and comments regarding overcrowding or other issues they feared could occur on or along the North Platte River. The major concern of the night was the middle county designation stating that an average of 22 crafts encountered on any one section of the river is acceptable, when the current average of crafts encountered on the river is around six.

Carpenter mentioned that the North Platte River has been designated as middle country since the 1980s, and that designation limits have not been changed. He also mentioned that the RAMP has not been updated since the 80s.

“The original plan was written and signed in 1985, almost 30 years ago, and it’s still valid and we’re still using it,” Carpenter said. “But it needs to be updated once its that old, and we need to make sure we’re catching up with the times. We started this process in 2009, as a result of the 2008 Rawlins Research Management Plan, and we’ve gotten a lot of input and done a lot of monitoring.”

Carpenter said also that the BLM can only restrict the number of issued SRPs (special recreation permits), which are issued to outfitters for commercial recreational use, and not prevent any landowners from using the North Platte River.

Saratoga resident Royce Kelley said he does not believe RAMP would cause major overcrowding, as some naysayers believed.

“They’re not going to bring in that many more people,” he said. “They’re not going to see another thousand people on the river next summer; it’s not going to happen, we’re too far away. That’s why businesses have to work hard to be part of this community, and they can’t just bring people in and get rid of them. They need that same clientele to come back year after year.”

For more information on the North Platte RAMP, contact the Wyoming BLM’s Rawlins Field Office at 307-328-4200.

 

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