In the April 2 Community News (a Roosevelt County publication), Austin Knudsen, one of the two Republican candidates for attorney general, gave some advice on dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and boiled it down to one thing: “Basically, be a decent neighbor.” It’s a good perspective, but I wish he would take his own advice.
You see, Austin Knudsen and his family, Knudsen Limited Family Partnership (KLFP), have not been decent neighbors when it comes to their own hometown and a park that is owned by the American Legion Post of Culbertson. This park was donated to the American Legion in 1944 by a generous local family and is located along the beautiful Missouri River just southeast of Culbertson. For many years, Legion Park was the site for the American Legion gatherings, recreational activities for churches, school and the Boy Scout activities such as district camporees and local events.
That was until Austin Knudsen and his family blocked access to Legion Park.
Some years ago, Knudsen and his family acquired the land around the park and closed off the road to access the park. After years of trying to unsuccessfully access the area and several confrontations with the Knudsen family, the Legion and the town of Culbertson were fed up. The American Legion organized a community fundraiser to raise money to make improvements to the park to open up access to it with the support of the town. That led to litigation, which continues to this day.
Our country has been or currently is involved in 17 conflicts which our service members have served or are serving since Knudsen acquired the park. The veterans of these 17 conflicts as well as those who served in Korea, Vietnam and even World War II, have been prohibited from visiting the park. This was a place designated for them to relax and recuperate.
Now Austin Knudsen wants to be Montana’s next attorney general. It’s a bit difficult for us to hear him out on why he should take one of the most important public service jobs we have when we don’t think he has taken his own advice to be a good neighbor. Keeping veterans, Boy Scouts and neighbors out of a park meant to honor people who have served their country is one of the most un-neighborly things for anyone to do, much less someone who wants to be our next attorney general.
Another member of the KLFP, Rhonda Knudsen, is Austin’s mother and is running in a contested primary to represent House District 34. She currently holds the position.
So I return to the original premise of “basically, be a decent neighbor.” When they shut the public — including veterans and Boy Scouts — out of a park, are the Knudsens being decent neighbors, or aren’t they? That will be up to you, the voter. Separate the wheat from the chaff.
Peter Olson of Culbertson heads the Legion Park Committee of Thomas Mann Post No. 81 American Legion of Montana.