July 24, 2008

Park planning efforts for the Milltown site post-cleanup continue to make progress with the recent completion of a conceptual design plan by the Milltown Superfund Redevelopment Working Group.

Working Group representatives submitted and discussed the final Milltown/Two Rivers Park Conceptual Design Plan (PDF), including a one-page minority report, with the Missoula County Commissioners at meetings this spring and summer. In July 2008, commissioners voted to write letters of support for the plan to Sen. Max Baucus and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department (FWP).

Created five years ago, the Working Group is an advisory body appointed by the county commissioners that draws on local residents, community leaders and river stakeholders, including CFRTAC, to plan for the future of the Superfund site once the remediation and restoration work is complete. Central to the group’s vision, as laid out in its 2005 Conceptual Redevelopment Plan, is the creation of a public park at the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers. The site offers considerable opportunities for outdoor recreation and the interpretation of the site’s rich natural and human heritage.

In the summer and fall of 2007, the Working Group led a design workshop and public process to flesh out the park vision. After broad public outreach to gather input, the workshop drew more than 30 stakeholders, including several representatives of the FWP for two days. The Milltown/Two Rivers Park Conceptual Design Plan was the primary product of the workshop and public comment.

The report describes in detail the proposed park features. In brief, the under the conceptual plan, the park would feature a gateway picnic area at the pedestrian bridge in Milltown that connects to the confluence area by a riverfront trail. The area’s rich history would be interpreted through signage and other means. A pavilion would be located in view of the new and restored confluence and river put-in could possibly be located downstream. Another pedestrian bridge would be located downriver to connect with the bluff area and the Kim Williams Trail. The restored flood plain would be left primarily as a natural area with some trails.

The one-page minority report, signed by four members, stated that “the draft is in contradiction to public input, the draft lacks in 1) planning and 2) financial sustainability for the operation and maintenance, and the final draft … does not reflect adequate public involvement.” For a PDF copy of the conceptual design plan and the one-page minority report, visit www.cfrtac.org

To move the park idea forward, the Working Group has begun fundraising efforts. The Working Group has established ties with the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation, which has agreed to serve as an advisor and fiscal sponsor for any funds subsequently received.
Earlier in 2008, the Working Group and the Clark Fork Coalition co-applied for a Natural Resource Damage Program grant to facilitate the transfer of roughly 450 acres of land from NorthWestern Energy to the state of Montana, which legally has the right of first refusal on the property. The state’s NRD program has already begun work on restoring lands along the Clark Fork that are currently owned by NorthWestern Energy. The transfer will ensure public ownership of the Milltown site, a key redevelopment priority. On another front, the Working Group submitted in March a federal appropriation request through Sen. Max Baucus to fund some of the capital, startup and O&M costs of the proposed park.

With state and federal funding requests pending, Working Group members recognize that a private fundraising effort is also needed. A Working Group committee is exploring the possibility of creating a nonprofit “park friends” organization that would be dedicated to raising funds and advising MFWP on the development and management of the park.

For more information, call 541-8099.

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