Amphitheater, ski hill proposed for Black Eagle area

Cascade County has been working for several years on plans to clean up with former smelter site in the Black Eagle area and to create plans for potential recreational development on the site.

Those plans are in conjunction with Superfund cleanup work by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and that remediation work is likely years out before any development efforts could occur.

The country’s consultant on the project to create development plans, WET, presented draft final plans to the public in 2018.

[The draft plan for the site is available here]

[Options being considered for Art Higgins Memorial Park are here.]

Since then, two related projects have been proposed and during a March 8 special meeting, were presented to the public.

Those proposed projects include the Smokestack Amphitheater from Ryan Buffington of TD&H Engineering.

His project is looking at an amphitheater that’s bigger and “more ambitious” than what was included in the draft plans for the former smelter site and Art Higgins Memorial Park area. His plan is similar to the KettleHouse Amphitheater in Missoula.

His proposed amphitheater would go in the area where the draft land use plans had put a smaller amphitheater as an option. Those plans are available here.

Buffington said he’d asked the County Commission about his project and was informed of the work already done in designing plans for future development in the area.

His vision is a layout similar to KettleHouse with about 800 parking spaces, a stack replica, multipurpose event room and more while maintaining the River’s Edge Trail.

Buffington said he’d been making plans to attend a show at KettleHouse and thought, “there’s no reason why we couldn’t have something like that here.”

The business plan at this point would include 4-8 shows monthly and there would be traffic impacts in the area, he said, but he’s been in contact with a traffic engineer to mitigate impacts to the area.

Jerry Gray of NorthWestern Energy said he was supportive of using vacant space but that the company had some concerns about traffic and their access to the dam in the event of an emergency.

Buffington said that was something he was taking into account in planning.

The property Buffington is proposing the amphitheater is within the county’s jurisdiction and the project would have to go through the county’s land use approval process, which has not yet happened.

Dick Sloan of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality said that the agency has looked at the site and it “really doesn’t look like it’s going to requite major remediation,” so that project could move faster than the former smelter site which will require remediation before any development can occur.

Another project idea is from George Willett of Showdown, to develop a small ski hill within the former smelter site.

Elizabeth Erickson of WET said that Willett has proposed the idea but said he’s talking to industry partners as he’s not willing to be the one to carry the idea forward.

A 30-day comment period is now open on the additions to the original draft plans for the area and may be submitted to the County Commission or Erickson at 480 E. Park Street, Butte, MT, 59701 or emailed to, or by phone at 406-723-1523.

For more background on the project, read our previous coverage:

County approves $95,000 contract for continued planning work for former Black Eagle smelter site

County receives additional EPA funding toward researching options for former smelter site

County moving forward with plans for former smelter, park in Black Eagle

Public meeting tonight on plans for former smelter site, Black Eagle Park

Draft plans for former smelter site include trails, mountain bike area, archery, folf and more

Public meeting on draft plans for former smelter site set for Nov. 14

Water park among crowd favorites for ideas for former smelter stack, but cost could make it unlikely

Got an idea for future development at the old stack site? Share it Monday in planning process