HAMILTON, Mont. - Ravalli County commissioners have given a green light to make improvements at the fairgrounds.
Of the $375,000 project inside the fairgrounds, 86 percent will be paid for by gas tax money.
The city of Hamilton is making improvements outside the grounds. That's expected to cost about $180,000. It will be paid for by state money from the Community Transportation Enhancement Program, or C-Tap.
The parking lot for the events center that was built 6 years ago will be paved. The county is required to pave it as part of an agreement with the city of Hamilton.
Fairgrounds manager Deborah Rogala said the gravel lot is often filled with potholes and mud puddles.
"It's not marked," she said, "and people are parking all over the place."
Parking would also extend behind the events center and a small parking lot would be built by the beef barn.
Improvements are designed to make the grounds more accessible.
Two things, said commissioner J.R. Iman, "Number one is accessibility for handicapped people, and also upgrading some of the entrances into our buildings."
The current entrance would be closed to cars. There will be more accommodations for bicycles.
"We're encouraging people to ride their bikes and walk," said Rogala.
Traffic would be diverted from the current entrance farther down Fairgrounds Road.
Rogala said the plan should make it safer for drivers and pedestrians.
The fence along Fairgrounds Road will also be moved several feet to make room for a sidewalk. The city will build that this spring. The sidewalk would extend along the southern edge of the fairgrounds, past the road department, and will eventually extend to the high school.
Fairgrounds Road is one of the busiest sections of road in Hamilton. Besides high school students who walk the road, there are more people living along the road than ever before.
"I think our walking potential needs to increase," said Hamilton Mayor Jerry Steele.
Steele said the city has plans to upgrade Fairgrounds Road so it is deemed safer.
He said the city is engineering the first block of Fairgrounds Road to the Old Corvallis Road intersection for improvements.