County selects prefered land use plan for former smelter site

County Commissioners voted unanimously to select their prefered land use option for the former smelter site.

The county will submit that plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and ARCO, which owns the site, for their consideration during their cleanup and remediation efforts on the site.

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, which will likely take several more years.

The bulk of the site, about 427 acres, is owned by ARCO Environmental Remediation, which is handling the remediation work, and there’s no guarantee the company will use any of the county’s suggestions for future use of the site.

In multiple public meetings over the last few years, it’s been said by multiple officials and consultants that recreational uses are prefered for the site in terms of lower maintenance costs and because it requires less soil disruption, in turn lessening the amount of remediation work required.

Plans for former smelter site considered at Nov. 16 County Commission meeting

Commissioners voted to select Option C, with the caveats that the Boston Barn be considered for a future interpretive center and recognition of the proposed archery range on a privately owned parcel thats may be subject to move elsewhere.

The Boston Barn was used by ARCO’s predecessor, the Boston and Montana Consolidated Copper and Silver Mining Company, for horses and firefighters, according to the City-County Historic Preservation Advisory Commission.

In recent months, HPAC has made saving the Boston Barn, which is on city property, one of its top priorities and has $10,000 committed toward the effort.

During the Nov. 10 HPAC meeting, County Commissioner Don Ryan said that the county was not interested in supporting the project “because it’s the city’s.”

County Commissioner Joe Briggs said during the Nov. 16 meeting that he prefers Option C and that without knowing what any future financing will look like, wanted the plan to include things that were inexpensive to maintain.

Water and Environmental Technologies, or WET, has been working on the plan since 2017 and in October released the final draft of the plan.

Amphitheater, ski hill proposed for Black Eagle area

The county was awarded a grant in 2017 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and they contracted with WET to facilitate community meetings, develop a conceptual land-use plan and explore long term management options for the property.

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

This portion of the projects follows the previous report finalized in 2019 for Art Higgins Memorial Park and trail access and connectivity.

The OU2 report includes three different land use options that were ranked on recreational benefits, construction costs, maintenance costs and compatibility with the Superfund remedy.

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

These three plans for OU2 have been presented multiple times in public meetings since 2018.

After that, 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 and a small ski hill from George Willett of Showdown.

Commissioners opted not to include those project proposals in the conceptual land use plans.

For more background, see our previous coverage:

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 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