Awaiting News on Stevensville Bridge Access

fas-map-300x220Winters can be a dull downtime when it comes to fishing news, but this winter has been a nail-biter for those anglers who use the Stevensville Bridge fishing access on the Bitterroot River. After landowner Roy Capp contested the access easement to his property, which the current site uses to access the river, it sent the town of Stevensville into a spin. Capp could simply refuse to allow access to his property, which would leave floaters with no access between Bells Crossing and the town of Florence. That’s a long float. Really long. Capp contested the access in September, and State Senator Fred Thomas (of Stevensville) presented a proposal on behalf of Capp. The proposal asks for a land swap that would allow for an 3.5 acre access at the bridge, maintained by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, in exchange for 8.5 acres downstream. This would significantly change the face of the site, but by all accounts it would do so for the better of all parties. As the landowner, Capp has dealt with trespassing, littering, and other sanitation problems, as well as degradation to the property itself due to wear from vehicles and heavy usage. The proposed land swap would allow a clear area for the access, while protecting Capp’s property. For FWP and river users, the land swap would allow for a large parking lot with 27 trailer spots and 14 car spots, latrines and fencing, and improvement to the lot itself. The costs according to FWP would be $250,000.  The opposition to the swap would begin with the sizable difference in the property exchanged, and the cost to the town. Likewise, some residents are worried that the dog walking paths and other unofficial uses that have developed along the river would be excluded. Some others worry about increased governmental intrusion. Stevensville City Council met Monday night to discuss the matter further, and we await news from that meeting today. Members of the angling community were surely in attendance, and the news will travel fast. We’ll keep you posted.

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