Got an idea for future development at the old stack site? Share it Monday in planning process
The ideas range from a replica of the old stack to a downhill bicycle racing center as possible uses for the 540 acres formerly occupied by the Anaconda Company’s smelter and the iconic stack.
The public will have a chance to spitball other ideas for the area during a public meeting 6-8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11 at the Black Eagle Community Center, 2332 Smelter Avenue.
The meeting is part of the process Water and Environmental Technologies, WET, is using to evaluate opportunities for bicycle/pedestrian connections to the Art Higgins Memorial Park, also known as Black Eagle Park, and other park improvements. They’re also exploring ideas for future use of lands within the former ACM Smelter and Refinery site.
Earlier this year, Cascade County Commissioners awarded a contract to WET using grant funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Commissioner Jane Weber said WET has considerable experience working on feasibility studies and remediation projects at contaminated sites like those in Anaconda and Butte.
Weber said that the park is county property and the commission will make final decisions, but they want to engage the community in the process.
One of the goals in developing plans for future development and land use is to offer suggestions to the EPA for their cleanup plan and ideally, reduce costs if some development ideas can be implemented through the cleanup process.
Weber said the commission has also tasked WET to look at Operable Unit 2, which includes the city golf course and further east where the old stack and refinery once sat. WET will work with the public, city and county agencies and private landowners to develop a land management master plan concept for that area.
Something to watch will be discussion of the Anaconda Hills Golf Course. It’s in the Superfund complex and owned and operated by the city. The golf fund remains a major financial drain on the city’s general fund and City Manager Greg Doyon has mentioned many times in recent months that commissioners will need to start serious discussions over how to improve the financial health of the golf courses or consider whether the city can continue to operate two courses.
Elizabeth Erickson, the WET project manager, said her team was in town last week meeting with about eight groups who had ideas for the area. They’ll continue to work with those groups and the public to gather ideas and then whittle them down to ideas that are actually doable.
Weber said that plan will be useful in future development to avoid implementing one idea and then realize things are laid out improperly for adding other land uses.
Another task for WET, which Weber thinks will be the most difficult, is to determine what kind of long term sustainability exists for the land use plans, in terms of managing and maintaining whatever is developed in that area.
Plans for potential future land use can also help the EPA determine what levels of cleanup are needed and how they want to create their remediation action plan.
Erickson said that often the remediation and cleanup plans are done long before any land use plans are done, but in this case, the timing was optimal to start land use planning first.
Some waste will be left in place, so Erickson said they can design around that or if the county wants certain development in certain areas, they could potentially create cleanup plans around those plans.
The cleanup will be funded by the Atlantic Richfield Company, which still owns the old smelter property and BNSF will be involved with remediation of the old rail beds. The EPA has oversight and makes final decisions on what actually gets done.
The EPA always looks for public comment on their plans, so having ideas of what community wants on the site will be helpful as EPA makes decisions, Erickson said.
“Instead of just leaving the property with the fence around it and a sign on it that says, ‘contaminated property do not enter,’ it’s better for the community to redevelop and have it become a usable property,” Erickson said.
WET will have draft plans out in November and a final plan will be available in February. Both the draft and final plans will have public meeting and comment opportunity, Erickson said.