Nearly a mile of Prickly Pear Creek near Clancy could become a new fishing access site under a tentative proposal the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider this week.
The commission will decide on Thursday if Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks may proceed with due diligence and public comment on acquisition of a nearly 50-acre lot located 1.5 miles north of Clancy and 8.5 miles south of Helena. The narrow property provides eight-tenths of a mile of creek frontage and two small gravel pits turned ponds.
“To have one relatively long piece like that really sticks out and is really unique,” said area fisheries biologist Ron Spoon. “Everybody we’ve talked to has been really excited about the potential.”
Spoon was in the area last spring working on an application for a bridge project when he began speaking with the owner of the land. The landowner expressed some interest in seeing the property become a fishing access site, and Spoon then approached the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust about potential funding for the purchase.
“For us there are two things that are really good,” Spoon said. “The first is keeping that fairly long reach as open space and not having development on it. At the same time it allows the public to use it to hike, fish or bird watch, so access.”
The property is likely too tight for hunting, he said.
The parcel making up the potential fishing access site is part of a larger tract that has already been subdivided.
Bill Orsello, chair of the trust’s citizen advisory board, said the property was once slated for a high density development, but that fell through due to bankruptcy. The current owners are interested in a smaller development of home lots that would be out of the view of the fishing access site, he said.
“On a lot of different levels it’s pretty appealing,” he said. “It’s good for wildlife, good riparian habitat for fisheries and good for public recreation.”
The property comes with a water right that, once conveyed to FWP, could allow management for instream flow, Orsello added, noting that the stretch may be an even more viable fishery due to consistent flows than the Prickly Pear Fishing Access Site in the Helena Valley.
A fishery survey from earlier this year found solid numbers of mostly brown trout, topping out in the 12-14-inch range, Spoon said.
If the commission allows the agency to proceed, the main challenge Spoon sees is coming to terms on a price.
Estimates put total costs at about $400,000. The trust estimates its share at $250,000-$300,000 pending an appraisal. FWP anticipates about $100,000 in site protection and development, which could include parking, restrooms and future trails, according to trust documents.
The commission meets Thursday in Helena at Montana Wild, 2668 Broadwater Ave., at 8:30 a.m.