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In Place Of Mine Waste, Butte Wants To See Trails And Community Gathering Spaces

Evan Barrett, a member of Butte's local Restore Our Creek Coalition, looks at plans for the creek corridors with state budget director Dan Villa. August 30, 2018.
Nora Saks

On Thursday, August 30, about 60 people huddled around tables in the backroom of the Butte Brewing Company, not drinking, but pouring over maps of the Upper Silver Bow and Blacktail Creek corridors at the second in a series of community design workshops.

At one table, a local pointed to a spot near the confluence of the creek.

"I’m putting a sticker on this. I love this amphitheatre."

The maps offered a first glance at what kind of green spaces and amenities could populate those corridors five, ten, fifteen years from now, once massive piles of historic mine waste are removed and the Superfund cleanup in Butte is finished.

Landscape architect Stacey Robinson said some clear patterns emerged from the first community workshops held earlier this month.

“Trails far and away was heavily weighted. Signage and interpretation, kind of telling the history of the place, but not just of the place, but the intent. And then community gathering space,” Robinson said.

Natural children’s play areas and public art also topped the list.

Robinson and his firm Land Design Inc. were hired by Atlantic Richfield to design what that 120 acres in the heart of Butte will look like once the cleanup is over. Atlantic Richfield, Butte-Silver Bow County, the state Department of Environmental Quality, and the Environmental Protection Agency are currently negotiating a final Superfund cleanup deal for Butte

A representative from Atlantic Richfield said the company has the budget to execute the land use plans under discussion, but would not share what that budget is, because they are under confidential settlement negotiations.

“The biggest challenge now is to acknowledge and recognize as much of the feedback as we got, and balance that with both the sites and what they offer, and also balancing that with the remedy requirements,” Robinson said.

Residents tangled with the conceptual plans under their noses - discussing everything from how to encourage winter recreation, to improving public safety, to where to put more native trees.

County commissioner Cindi Shaw brought up a point that was on a lot of peoples’ minds - how to share these new green spaces and have an impact beyond Butte.

“I think it’s gonna open up some venues we’ve never seen before. I’m really excited about that. Invitation, the trailways, the idea of having some food vendors, bike rentals. Just invitation. We want it to be a destination. Anything called a slag canyon - that sounds like a destination, doesn’t it?” said Shaw.

The landscape architect team will synthesize this second round of crowdsourced ideas over the next month, and reveal a more finalized plan to the public in October.

Nora Saks is a reporter and producer based in Butte, MT.
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