FWP seeking input on Somers Beach State Park plan
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News from MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks
KALISPELL — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on a draft development plan for Somers Beach State Park on Flathead Lake.
The plan builds on public input gathered in 2022 and proposes a variety of new recreational amenities at the 106-acre park on the north shore near Somers. While most of the park would remain undeveloped in its natural state, the options include common features, such as restrooms, administrative buildings, and park host sites, that provide for public safety, operational efficiency, and site stewardship.
Additional proposals are grouped into two alternatives that offer different levels of development of land-based and water-based amenities. These include limited overnight accommodations, launch sites for hand-carried boats, and picnic and group-use shelters, among others. A third “No Action” alternative would keep the current minimal site setup.
These options are outlined in a draft environmental assessment that is open to public comment for 30 days through Feb. 13, 2023. Comments can be submitted online at: https://fwp.mt.gov/news/public-notices, or in writing to Somers Beach State Park Development Proposal EA, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 490 N. Meridian Road, Kalispell, MT 59901, or via e-mail to - Stevie.Burton@mt.gov. A printed copy of the draft EA is available upon request.
FWP’s preferred alternative for development at Somers Beach would include day-use visitor amenities, including group-use shelters, trails, and a natural playground, as well as limited overnight accommodations at three small cabins on the park’s west side and up to six small tent pads on the east side. The 12-foot by 12-foot cabins would be available for nightly rental through the state park’s campsite reservation system, while the 10-foot by 10-foot tent pads would be available on a first-come, first-served basis to anyone arriving on foot, bicycle, or other non-motorized means, such as kayak. Overnight vehicle parking at the main parking lot would be prohibited.
Somers Beach State Park features a mixture of agricultural and undeveloped uplands that transition to wetlands near Flathead Lake. The western side of the park features the only developed road, which extends from Burnell Avenue to the lake. A significant portion of the park’s 106 acres is lakebed. Approximately 45 acres become exposed lakebed when Flathead Lake reaches low pool from fall through spring. The exposed lakebed is used by recreationists for hiking, mountain biking, skiing, ice skating, and other activities. During full pool, the primary park use has been walking, with most of the use originating from the parking lot.
In fall 2021, FWP acquired the Somers Beach property on the northwest shore of Flathead Lake with plans to add it to Montana’s state park system. Interim developments were completed at the park, including an access road, parking lot, and erosion control beach to protect the loss of shoreline and conserve wetlands. Park boundaries are marked, and site cleanup has begun with the removal of old fencing materials.
In spring 2022, FWP launched a public planning process to help guide future use and development of the state park, starting with a public scoping survey that collected input on preferences, interests, and ideas for the site. There were nearly 1,300 individual responses with approximately 80% coming from the Flathead Valley. FWP hosted in-person and virtual open houses in summertime to build on information gained from the public survey. Input from the open houses and survey helped FWP staff develop the draft environmental assessment.
For more information, visit: https://fwp.mt.gov/stateparks/somers-beach-planning-project.