Over two and half million people have visited Montana's state parks so far this year, which is 14 percent above last year. Some of those parks are in the Bitterroot Valley, where the Montana State Parks and Recreation Board finished a two-day visit with a board meeting in Hamilton Thursday.

The board visited Fort Owen State Park at Stevensville and the Daly Mansion in Hamilton Wednesday. Thursday morning, the board held a meeting at the Bitterroot River Inn. Fish Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener joined the board members - Tom Towe, Mary Sexton and Diane Conradi.

Besides statewide issues on the agenda, the board heard local comments about Fort Owen at Stevensville and the Bitterroot Trail bike and walking path along US 93.

Margaret Gorski said that issues dealing with access to Fort Owen and problems with trespass on the adjoining Capp Ranch need to be solved. The board agreed with her that a community-wide discussion on Fort Owen needed to include a wider scope involving access to the Bitterroot River nearby and property next to St. Mary's Mission.

Roger DeBrito of the Florence Civic Club detailed the history of maintaining the popular Bitterroot Trail bike and walking path and asked that the state consider more funding for non-motorized trails.

Board member Mary Sexton applauded the Daly Mansion Preservation Trust for their work in maintaining the state-owned mansion northeast of Hamilton.

Mike Jeffers of the Bitterroot Ridge Runners promoted further development of areas for motorized off-road users around Painted Rocks Reservoir. Board members were planning to visit the area before wrapping up their Bitterroot Valley visit.