The Water Forum's article, “Erosion project planned at Skalkaho Bend,” Ravalli Republic, Sunday, Feb. 14, depicts a park of unique grassland and views. Neither will exist when the plan is implemented.
Here is the reality:
Over 25 years the Bitteroot has moved eastward, eroding the banks along the park. More recently, according to the forum's own consultants, it has been sending more water into the westernmost channel and also using an increasingly well-developed chute channel — two facts challenging the need for the project.
The 1500-foot-long swale (5 football fields in length) will be fenced and have crossings at each end and only one other along its full length. It will be 20 feet wide — eventually an impenetrable willow thicket bisecting the existing grassland end to end! These grasslands are well-established deer, elk and moose corridors, and hosts to migratory and ground-nesting birds and small mammals.
Ninety-seven percent of the plantings will be willows whose mature height will be 10 feet (??). But interspersed with the willows will be 200 cottonwood, dogwood, aspen and serviceberry — one tree every seven feet whose mature height (over 50 feet) will determine the eventual height of the canopy. The incredible viewshed will not be maintained. (Visualize adjoining River Park!)
The beauty and unique qualities and usage of Skalkaho Bend Park will be irrevocably changed by proceeding with this hasty erosion project.