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Column: Clarification in order on subject of Riverfront Park

by Ron Carter
| May 28, 2009 12:00 AM

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding over Riverfront Park. I may have been inadvertently responsible for some of it myself so I am writing to try to clarify a few points.

I was recently appointed to the Libby City Council and have been working with the parks committee of the council to get down on paper the major design elements so that we can coordinate with the Environmental Protection Agency on the cleanup of the site, called Operable Unit 1.

To start the layout, I procured a map of the site from the city supervisor. This map was labeled Kootenai River Industrial Park so I re-lettered that on the new map. I think it has been called that for a long time. It was never the intent of the council to have heavy industry there but it was thought prudent to consider the possibility of some future commercial or retail use. A bait shop, boat rental or a restaurant were mentioned.

The railroad spur on the property is a very valuable part of Libby’s infrastructure and it is our fiscal responsibility to manage the property in the best long-term interest of the city.

A major element of the park design is the relocation of the approach road (City Service Road) to Highway 37. As it is now, traffic entering the highway has their view almost completely blocked to the north by the bridge railings.

By siting the road midway between the railroad viaduct and the river bridge, visibility and safety are greatly improved. The Montana State Highway Department recognizes this as a safety issue and is willing to work with us on it.

Siting the approach road in a central location allows the road to pass just to the south of the fire hydrant and utilities in the park. This creates a huge grassy field in front of the pavilion, which will double in size when the old approach road is removed. The map shows the access road to the pavilion, boat ramps, and parking area, which is still being revised. Utility corridors will be installed for street lighting and future uses.

To the south of the new approach road on the map is a strip about 150 feet wide along the railroad right-of-way. To screen the park area from the railroad and abate some of the train noise, the plan calls for a double screen of trees or shrubs off the south edge of the approach road.

It was never the purpose of this park to be “in competition” with the Kootenai River Industrial District on the old Stimson site. The city, the county, the state, and the industrial district are all working together to help Stinger Welding get established and operating on the Port Authority property.

This is very important to the people of Libby and we can’t be spending energy on these false issues. Let’s be united in this and make it happen.

Sen. Jon Tester called Libby “one of the most beautiful places in the world.” We have a rare opportunity with the breathtaking natural setting of Riverfront Park. We ask that the public continue to be a part of the planning process through City Council meetings, committee meetings and the informal 7 a.m. Wednesday breakfast meetings. All meetings are noticed and open to the public.

In making these points I am speaking only for myself as an individual and the possible cause of some of the misunderstanding. You can blame it on the new guy.

Thank you, everyone.

(Ron Carter is a member of the Libby City Council).