Draft plans for former smelter site include trails, mountain bike area, archery, folf and more
Draft plans for the future of the former ACM Smelter and Refinery site, as well as Black Eagle Park are now available.
Joshua Vincent with Water & Environmental Technologies and Kurtis Grow with Land Design, Inc., presented the draft plans and answered questions during a public meeting Tuesday night.
Maps were handed out to those who attended so that they could draw on the map, ask questions or write comments and send the map back to WET. Comments can also be submitted in writing by post, email or by phone. Comments are due by Dec. 15 and can be sent to Elizabeth Erickson, 480 E. Park Street, Butte, MT, 59701 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 406-723-1523.
Since the area is a superfund cleanup site, remediation requirements will limit some of the land use options, as will land ownership, Vincent said.
The plans are conceptual, but primarily include continuing paved trails, secondary gravel trails and areas for mountain biking, archery and folf.
The draft plans also include an amphitheater and large shelter for community use and events, as well as an interpretive center, smelter stack replica and smelter stack memorial.
Restrooms connected to utilities are included in the western areas of the park, which are closer to existing infrastructure, reducing cost. Vault toilets are included throughout the site. A tent camping area is also included in the draft plans.
Some attendees at Tuesday’s meeting remarked that if the draft plans were to become a reality, they’d be a great addition to recreational opportunities.
“It could be a crown jewel amenity for Great Falls,” Vincent said.
Vincent and Grow said that they’d run their plans by local law enforcement and fire service agencies to ensure none of the plans or changes to vehicle traffic would impede public safety.
Vincent and Grow took questions and comments about the plans and those comments will be incorporated into the final report, which is expected in February.
Questions included how all of the work would be funded, but some of that depends on remediation work since some of the trail, amenity or infrastructure work could be included in the remediation construction.
The 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, according to Commissioner Jane Weber, and can help the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determine what levels of cleanup are needed and how they want to create their remediation action plan.
An EPA representative at the meeting said remediation work would likely take several more years.
WET is Cascade County’s contractor and is assessing options for bicycle/pedestrian connections and other park improvements at Art Higgins Memorial Park/Black Eagle Park along with future land uses for 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.
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.
The project includes developing a land management master plan concept for the area and determining what kind of long-term sustainability exists for the land use plans, in terms of managing and maintaining whatever is developed in that area, according to Cascade County Commissioner Jane Weber.
Elizabeth Erickson, the WET project manager, and her team have been meeting with groups who have ideas for the land and held a public meeting in September to solicit ideas and concerns.
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.