Associated Press Map has always shown only portion of public roads
GREAT FALLS - A draft version of Montana's new highway map is being distributed for public comment, and the Montana Transportation Department is likely to get some.
The new digitally produced map improves accuracy, according to Zia Kazimi of the department's mapping division. She said the new map also includes roads, physical and topographical features that weren't on previous maps, such as streams, lakes, campsites and new ghost town symbols.
Sixteen city inset maps, six to eight times their previous size, also were added.
But those features may be overshadowed by the absence of 14 towns that appeared on the last version of the map.
Eighteen towns initially were marked for erasure, but four were restored after protests - Alpine, Maiden, Ross Fork and Simpson.
That is likely to leave plenty of room for objections.
"I don't see where they will save any money by leaving Flatwillow off the map," said rancher James Johnke, a resident of the absent community of Flatwillow. "This makes the state look more desolate than it is."
Johnke said he was certain the elimination would be opposed by Petroleum County commissioners. The commissioners, along with other Montana local governments and chambers of commerce, should be among 350 recipients of the draft map.
The new draft shows Flatwillow Road, the road between Musselshell and Flatwillow, but it leaves off another road that leads to Flatwillow from the northwest. The road that was erased from the map is a county road that Johnke describes as usable except in rainy weather.
"If very many roads are taken off, hunters will have a hard time, too," the rancher said.
That's why it's important for people to go to their city or county offices and see the draft maps for themselves.
The highway map has always shown only a portion of public roads, Kazimi said. Of nearly 70,000 miles of public roads in Montana only 20,000 miles appear on the map. Adding the other 50,000 would make the map illegible.
Of the 2,500 towns in Montana that, at some time, have had a post office, fewer than 500 have at any time shown up on the highway map. To include all the missing towns for historical purposes would make the map hard to decipher, she said.
Some towns are still landmarks, Johnke said, and a helpful tool in giving people directions.
"That dot on the roadmap is our community," he said.