Wild Horse Island State Park. All photos by August Schield

We reminisce as extra resources bolster our parks

During the summer of 2018, Prairie Populist covered every corner of the state, visiting Montana’s grand state parks. We quickly realized the true beauty of our parks lies in the people who frequent them.

We shared wine, beer and coffee with fellow Montanans as we learned about what truly makes our state parks tick and why people from all walks of life visit them year in and year out.

That’s one reason we’re incredibly excited that our parks will be better funded in the coming years, thanks to Senate Bill 24 passing at our state legislature. After Gov. Steve Bullock signs it into law, it will add an additional $2 million per year into the parks division budget, help pay for fishing access sites and create a new trails grant program. It’s a big payday for our parks and for Montanans and visitors who can’t get enough of them.

The funding increase means that parks will be better maintained so that Montanans and friends can add more memories to those we made last year.

The warm weather and good news about SB 24 inspired us and sent us looking through our archives. Check out a few of our favorite moments from our state parks tour last summer.

Last June, we met Keilah Spriggs, age 2, at Painted Rocks State Park. Her curiosity reminded us how special some of the activities we take for granted — like fishing — really are.

Jan Miller, a vagabond living in her Chevy, is proof that you don’t have to lose that curiously with age. Despite traveling all over the country this year, Jan was blown away by Lost Creek State Park’s green and red Limestone Cliffs, remarking that it reminds her of Yosemite National Park.

At Ackley Lake State Park, Ted and Terry — old friends who told us they often meet up for park excursions — were quite the dynamic duo. They kept us laughing for hours with stories about their wives, cats, dogs and kids.

Ted and Terry told us stories about their families. However, we saw families making their own stories at Tongue River Reservoir State Park. Erik — a young man from Hardin — introduced us to several people who were dancing, chatting, and drinking around the marina while a band played. Nearly every person he pulled over to talk to us was either a cousin, aunt, uncle, or someone else he was sure he was related to, even if he couldn’t remember how.

While the people we met left us with more stories than we could ever imagine, the land that originally inspired the state parks tour still took our breath away. We were also drawn to the endless recreational opportunities. From cliff jumping at Sluice Boxes to star gazing at Brush Lake, Montana’s state parks offer something for everyone.

-Andie Creel

Photos by August Schield

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