Kalispell — This month Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks acquired the 106-acre Somers Beach property on the northwest shore of Flathead Lake with plans to add it to Montana’s state park system. The previous owners, the Sliter family, permitted public access to the property for many years, and its designation as a state park will perpetuate public enjoyment and access into the future.
Since the site is suitable for a variety of recreational offerings and amenities, such as trails, hand-launch boat access, picnic tables, and more, FWP is working on a long-term vision and development plan for the park that will include extensive public involvement.
While that comprehensive process is expected to take several months, FWP is starting with an interim plan to address immediate needs for public safety, sanitation, and parking. The proposed amenities are outlined in a draft environmental assessment that is available online at https://fwp.mt.gov/news/public-notices and open to public input through Nov. 6. A public meeting is scheduled for Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. through Zoom. The meeting information will be posted online at https://fwp.mt.gov/aboutfwp/regions/region1.
Written comments can be mailed to: Somers Beach Acquisition EA; Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; 490 N. Meridian Road; Kalispell, MT 59901 or sent by e-mail to: Stevie Burton at Stevie.Burton@mt.gov.
FWP asks the public to recreate responsibly at the property and follow all day-use rules – No camping or campfires; Leave No Trace; and Pack It In, Pack it Out etiquette – while also respecting neighboring private property.
The acquisition of the Somers Beach property marks an achievement many years in the making thanks to community collaboration and support. The property represents a significant undeveloped portion of the north shore of Flathead Lake and will complement habitat protections already in place along the lakeshore. Once it becomes a state park, it will provide more public access to Flathead Lake, which currently has less than 20 public access points along its 185 miles of shoreline, all of which are heavily used by residents and tourists alike.
Throughout the year, there is enormous demand for opportunities to recreate on or near the lake; and state, city, and county parks and Fishing Access Sites (FAS) are at or above capacity throughout much of the year. Seeing this need for more recreational access, multiple entities have been working together to add the proposed Somers Beach property to the Montana State Park System and ensure future public access.
FWP worked with the Sliter family and Flathead Land Trust to consider the project. The Flathead Land Trust previously solicited public input on the initial acquisition, and several hundred people provided comment. Funding for the acquisition was provided by the Land and Water Conservation Fund grant and required matches from Parks Earned Revenue funds.
Through an extensive public process and private fundraising, support flourished for the park.
“For more than a decade, we have worked with the Sliter family with a shared goal to find a conservation outcome for this special property and expand much needed outdoor recreation opportunities along the north shore of Flathead Lake,” said Paul Travis of Flathead Land Trust. “We are beyond excited that it is now a new Montana State Park and give a big thank you to the Sliter family, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and all donors and partners who helped make it happen.”
Coby Gierke, Executive Director of the Montana State Parks Foundation, added, “After a couple years, a lot of hard work, and after building some amazing partnerships, we’re finally here, opening an amazing new park on the north shore of the lake. We definitely wouldn’t be here today without all the great support we’ve received for this project from donors and organizations in the Flathead area and beyond.”
“Over the last five years, we’ve seen how much Montanans love their state parks, especially the sites on Flathead Lake. Adding another park on the lake is an amazing opportunity and we’re very glad our partners at FWP didn’t let it pass them by.”