FWP Proposes Tearing Down Historic But Crumbling Building on North Shore

Agency seeking to clean up debris from old homestead near waterfowl protection area

By Dillon Tabish
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is proposing to restore natural conditions on a 70-acre section of property near the north shore of Flathead Lake. Courtesy Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

A ramshackle bunkhouse from the 1930s along the north shore of Flathead Lake is slated to come down as state officials propose cleaning up a scenic section of public space and habitat near Bigfork.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is proposing to restore natural conditions on a 70-acre section of property in the floodplain called the Osprey View Fisheries Conservation Area. The agency, which acquired the land in 2009 for public access and to preserve waterfowl habitat, is seeking to clean up the historic remnants of a homestead, including leftover debris, lumber and a dilapidated building. The site is located near Holt Drive and is adjacent to the private property leading to Dockstader Island on one side and protected waterfowl and wildlife management areas on the other.

Public comment is accepted through Sept. 23.

Neighbors have expressed opposition to tearing down the historic building on site, but agency officials say the structure is already falling down and presents a safety hazard.

“Unfortunately we don’t have the funding to maintain the structure,” Kris Tempel, FWP resource specialist, said. “We are concerned for public safety.”

The property is open to the public from July 16 through the end of February. It is a popular location for visitors to the north shore during summer and for hunters in fall.

Tempel said another nearby building has already almost completely collapsed and the last standing structure is beginning to fall apart as well. She said the agency would be open to other ideas for keeping the structure but the preservation would have to be publicly funded.

The buildings are believed to be former bunkhouses for an historic farm that operated along the agricultural lakeshore in the 1930s. A barn and homestead were also once on the property but no longer exist.

A cultural survey was completed in 2012 but determined that the site failed to meet several criteria to be protected on the National Register of Historic Places, according to FWP.

The site consists of 20 acres of land and 50 acres of floodplain. It was originally purchased using Bonneville Power Administration funds. If approved, the cleanup project would commence in October. FWP would put the cleanup project out for bid and the old wood could be reclaimed as part of the cleanup, Tempel said.