Sixteenmile Creek
SEAN SPERRY/CHRONICLE Sixteenmile Creek flows just west of Ringling Tuesday. Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks is proposing acquiring a 5-mile section of the stream to provide a public fishing access site.

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The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is looking to purchase 89 acres of land west of Ringling on Sixteenmile Creek, approximately 90 miles from Bozeman, for a new fishing access site.

The privately owned land was sold to Western Rivers, a land trust company that is holding the land until FWP is ready to purchase it. The price tag is $315,000.

The FWP Foundation, a nonprofit that works closely with the state agency, plans to contribute $250,000 to the project. FWP will fund the remaining $65,000.

The site is approximately 5 miles long and follows the abandoned Milwaukee Railroad right of way along Sixteenmile Creek.

Brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout and mountain whitefish are all commonly found in the creek.

"We try to get the minimal amount of land that is necessary to get access to the water, but it really varies," said Jerry Walker, regional parks manager for FWP. "This specific piece of land is unusual. The nature of the acquisition, being along the railroad, is an odd layout."

FWP plans to build an eight-car parking lot at the eastern end of the property, along with an access road and a restroom.

FWP is seeking public comment on the project over the next month and plans to make a decision on the purchase by mid-August.

"We've mainly had a positive reaction to the proposal so far. Some of the private landowners around the creek have raised concerns though," Walker said.

If the proposal is approved, the fishing access site could open as early as next summer, according to the draft environmental assessment. The full environmental assessment is available on the FWP website.

"Right now we are just waiting to see what the public reaction is and then we can go ahead with the project," Walker said.

FWP oversees 320 fishing access sites across the state, 94 of which are in southwest Montana. They range in size from 1 acre to 800 acres.

Samantha Booth can be reached at sbooth@dailychronicle.com.

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