By Cathy Nelson
HOT SPRINGS – District 30 Rep. Tim Goodwin told the Fall River County Commission that he will ask the state to help fund improvements on Shep’s Canyon Road when the state legislature begins on January 12. He and Rep. Julie Frye-Mueller spoke with the commissioners on the phone during the commission’s special meeting held on Thursday, Dec. 10.
Shep’s Canyon Road is a 6 1/2-mile gravel road between Highway 71 and the west entrance to Angostura Recreation Area. The road provides access for ranches, the residential subdivisions, a café, a campground, and a boat launch and is heavily used all year round, especially during tourist season.
The commissioners also talked on the phone with Scott Simpson, who is the State Park and Recreation Director, about helping the county with funding to improve Shep’s Canyon Road.
“I’ve always considered Fall River County a cooperative partner,” Simpson said. He went on to say he thought the road was well maintained by the county, that dust control would make it a bit better, and that the road “is adequate for that area.”
“We have no plans for development or improvement there,” Simpson added.
Commissioner Joe Falkenburg said the road is the most travelled road in the county, and that the county would cooperate with GF&P.
“Everyone loves paved roads,” Simpson said, “They’re not cheap to build and then maintaining a road like that costs.” He explained that GF&P cooperates in maintaining 135 miles of road in the state that connect to state parks.
Commissioner Heath Greenough said, “I’m under the impression that the road is a good road.” A few improvements would help, he said. He asked Simpson if GF&P would help control speeding on the road. Simpson said that GF&P would be willing to help as a presence but does not have authority to write tickets.
“We can’t say we’d have someone there every weekend,” he said.
Commissioner Joe Allen asked if GF&P could install a sign on the road that shows drivers how fast they are driving. Simpson asked the commission to put together a price proposal for the sign and then “they would look at it.”
Rick Collignon, who is a resident on Shep’s Canyon Road, said he had some engineering questions about the road’s condition for future use. He said a better road could attract a greater use of the lake area for fishing, boating and construction. “Do you support the county with what they want to do with the road?” he asked Simpson.
“Yes,” Simpson said, “the county should decide what to do with the road. We’ve got a long list of projects ahead of this, so it would be years before we could help.” He explained that the Department of Transportation (DOT) had cut GF&P’s budget for road construction by a half million dollars in 2009. Upon Collignon’s suggestion that the landowners meet with Rep. Goodwin to ask to get GF&P’s funding back from the DOT, Simpson said “We have a good relationship with Rep. Goodwin, and if he can make things happen, we’ll have a conversation with him.”
Simpson explained that GF&P is spending $6 to $7 million a year on roads and on maintaining the park system’s water supply and buildings.
“Would you like to see Angostura continue to grow?” Collignon asked Simpson. “The road is a part of that.”
Rep. Goodwin then came on the phone and explained that the state will be getting billions of dollars for the CARES Act and should have excess money to help fix Shep’s Canyon Road. “If there’s ever a year to fix the road, it’s this year,” he said. “Let’s fix the road.” He said he plans to introduce a bill through the legislature that will provide money to help the county fix the road.
A couple other Shep’s Canyon Road residents also presented their thoughts on the need to fix the road, citing safety and growth as two important factors.
Rep. Frye-Mueller said 10,000 people were at Angostura in July. She said the road was built to handle about 4,000 people.
The commissioners then discussed the options and estimated costs of either paving the road or applying Base One. They will work with the Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) and Highway Superintendent Randy Seiler to put together a plan and then get it to Rep. Goodwin.
“Everyone’s in agreement, if we can find funding,” said Commissioner Falkenburg. “We can’t put out that much money in the county. We’ll see if the DOT will help us.”