LOVELL, Wyoming (STPNS) --

An appearance at the Montana Outdoor Recreation Exposition over the weekend by the Friends of Bighorn Lake was a huge success, according to Bob Croft, a member of the Friends board of directors.

The Friends group rented a 1,200-square foot booth at the MORE Show, and more than volunteers worked three-hour shifts Friday through Sunday to inform the boating and fishing public about the efforts to restore Big Horn Lake and the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area back into a major recreational destination area.



Croft said the booth and the Friends organization was very well received by those who stopped by, and the group was able to sign up many more members.

?We found that the average Montana citizen on the street wants a full lake so they can come down and recreate,? Croft said. ?It?s their favorite place. They?re excited that we have water. Some haven?t licensed their boats in a while.?

The show was a great opportunity to provide information to recreationists, Croft said.

?Even with all of the news coverage, the average recreationist is not keeping up with things,? he said. ?That was kind of amazing to us. A lot of people stopped by and talked.?

Croft said hundreds of people took Friends of Bighorn Lake sign-up sheets and fact sheets about the organization and its accomplishments. One of the folks who stopped by, he noted, was Bureau of Reclamation Montana Area Office Manager Dan Jewell, who stopped as a boater, not as Bureau official.

?He enjoys going to lakes around the area, and he wants to do a turn down here,? Croft said. ?It kind of went in waves. People came through in bunches. We couldn?t even talk to all of them.?

Also dropping by was Bighorn Canyon NRA Supt. Darrell Cook.

Croft said a ?good number? of people signed up for the Friends group on the spot, and the Friends anticipate that many more will come in over the next two to three weeks.

?There?ll be a big flush of signups coming through the mail,? he said, noting that many people took forms to give to their friends. ?We had a very positive experience visiting with people. We met people from all over Montana and from the Sheridan area. It was real diverse.

?A lot of them used to recreate here. They?re excited about the water and want to come back. Many of them used to use the Kane boat ramp when it was functional.?

Another benefit of the show was the many contacts made with boat dealers, many of whom plan to attend the ?It?s a New Day at Big Horn Lake? Grand Opening celebration on June 23 to kick off Mustang Days.

?A lot of contacts were made,? Croft said, adding that the group also had good visits with Trout Unlimited and the newly-formed Friends of the River organizations.

Croft said the Friends are grateful for the ?great efforts? of many people, from local volunteers and Friends members to Wyoming?s congressional delegation and staff members. He said he?d like to offer a ?special thank you? to officials from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency and the Bureau of Reclamation.

?We?ve had good discussions with these folks,? he said. ?We?re at a point where we can discuss hard things and disagree on a few things but be willing to work them out. I see a coming-together.?

Some of those who volunteered in Billings were Bob and Rena Croft, Ferrell Mangus, Joe Anderson, HD and Margaret Yarbrough, Charlie Loman, John and Lynda Nickle, Brian Dickson, Ken Grant, Bart Grant, Keith Grant, Jim Kolesien, Brian Bentley, Bob Nemitz, Jeremy Gilb, Bill and Kathy Johnsey, Dorm and Sharon Land, Duane Harvey, Ed Croft, Wayne and Karen Spragg, LeMoine Sorenson, Jerry LaFleiche, Bruce Morrison, Bill Terry, Gerry and Marcy Ohman, RB Smith, Neal and Linda Harp, according to a list provided by Croft.

Croft named the winners of the three Mike Kopriva prints entitled Big Horn Canyon. The prints were donated by First National Bank and Trust and framed by John Nickle. The winners were: Craig Robinson of Cody, Friday; Bert Winterholler of Billings, Saturday; and Kevin Olsen of  Billings, Sunday.

Croft also noted that progress is being made on the new South Kane boat ramp and said that Cook recently made the determination that the ramp would be a 50-foot wide ramp, not a narrower ramp as originally anticipated.