Somers Beach – An Opportunity for New Public Access on Flathead Lake
Over the past decade, the Sliter family and Flathead Land Trust have been working together to conserve and create public access at their property east of Somers that encompasses almost a half mile of Flathead Lake shoreline. This rare property has an expansive sandy beach at low lake levels and at higher lake levels its shallow waters provide a safe area for families to swim and recreate. It is also has amazing beauty with views of the Swan Mountains and miles of undeveloped shoreline. A state park has been proposed for this spectacular site and recently the Montana State Park and Recreation Board voted to have Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks complete its due diligence and further consider the site as a state park.
Thank you to many of you who provided input on the proposed state park. Over 250 letters showing overwhelming support for the property to become a future state park were received. This support was from many who have enjoyed Somers Beach, some for generations, and value its open space, beauty, and the simple outdoor recreation it offers. Supporters value its year-round opportunities for walking on its broad expanse of a beach in spring, playing in its sand, picnicking, kayaking, swimming, playing with dogs, birdwatching, and cross-country skiing. Support was also given because it would safeguard bird, fish, and wildlife habitat, protect water quality, and help the local economy. People voiced support in having an agency properly manage the high traffic Somers Beach receives and said a managed park would help with current problems such as litter, messes left by dogs, lack of bathrooms, off-road motorized use, uncontrolled campfires, and trespass on the neighboring Waterfowl Production Area. They encouraged the state to take advantage of such a rare opportunity as much of the lakeshore has already been divided into small parcels and developed with homes.
The Somers Beach project would add significant public access to Flathead Lake. Although Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the western U.S., there are currently only 13 public access sites along its 185 miles of shoreline. The new Somers Beach site would add public access to 106 acres (55 acres of land when the lake level is at full pool). It would also provide much desired year-round public access. Although much of the north shore is public land as part of the Flathead Lake Waterfowl Production Area, the Waterfowl Production Area is closed to human use between March and July each year to protect migrating and nesting birds.
Details for how a future park could look or be operated have not been proposed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at this time. There will be additional requests for public input and public comment periods to consider the details of a state park at the site. We’ll provide updates as we learn more about the process and how you can continue to support the project.
“Our family’s long-term intention for this special property has been to find a solution that conserves the shoreline and offers safe public access,” said Andrea Sliter Goudge. “We are not comfortable with the amount of public use happening on our property and are seeking an alternative that best meets both the objectives of our family and our community. If this endeavor moves forward, public input will be extensive, and is required, as part of the process. This extensive public input process is one of the reasons our family is grateful for the possible interest by State Parks.”
“In order to protect this special place from future private development, conserve the wetlands and bird habitat, and secure much needed new public access on Flathead Lake, we feel a state park offers our best opportunity to do so” said Paul Travis, executive director of Flathead Land Trust.