Reaction mixed to proposed badlands bridge in N.D.Public reaction is mixed to a proposed bridge in the southwest North Dakota county where Theodore Roosevelt ranched and hunted before moving on to the White House
MEDORA, N.D. (AP) — Public reaction is mixed to a proposed bridge in the southwest North Dakota county where Theodore Roosevelt ranched and hunted before moving on to the White House.
The $15 million structure over the Little Missouri River would connect two highways in Billings County, cutting as much as 100 miles off some commutes and speed economic development in the region, according to County Commission Chairman Jim Arthaud.
State and federal officials are studying the proposal’s effects on the environment and taking public comment until June 22 on several possible crossings. Many are near Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch, prompting the National Trust for Historic Preservation this week to name the ranch as one of America’s most endangered places.
The Bismarck Tribune and The Dickinson Press reported that many people who attended a public meeting in Medora on Thursday objected to the idea of a bridge.
“Is there some emotion, some anger associated with it?” said Jeb Williams, of Bismarck, whose relatives own a ranch in the area of the proposed structure. “Yes there is, and I don’t think we have to apologize for that due to what the significant changes would be to everybody involved with this. Need versus convenience, I think, is an important point.”
Eileen Andes, interpretation chief at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, said some of the options presented would “irreparably disrupt the landscape around (Roosevelt’s) Elkhorn Ranch, would produce more industrial truck traffic, dust and noise and would permanently destroy the experience Roosevelt enjoyed.”
Others said a bridge might save people’s lives in an emergency, especially when some motorists try to cross the river on rocky and sandy fords.
“We’ve had people stuck in that river, buried in there. The last one I pulled out of there, we spent five hours getting him out of it,” said George Boyce. “The more we put this off, somebody’s life is going to be on the line. I guarantee it.”
The debate might become moot if Roosevelt’s great-grandson, Tweed Roosevelt, succeeds in his effort to designate the area as a national monument, which would block development. Roosevelt told The Associated Press earlier this week that he has asked President Barack Obama for the designation.