By Tracy McNew
In November of last year, the Lincoln County Port Authority started building a berm that would separate the walking path along Libby Creek from the property zoned for industrial use at the Port Authority, located at the old Stimson mill site east of downtown Libby.
The berm was finished a few weeks ago. It represents efforts to separate industrial areas from public use areas, and to improve the Port Authority campus for future use. The berm was made from what was previously seven to ten acres of concrete debris; an eyesore on the Port Authority grounds for a number of years.
According to Brett McCully, Director of Operations at the Lincoln County Port Authority, the berm was an ideal way to cleanup the concrete debris because it was very cost effective. Previous quotes to clean it up were about $150,000, but it turns out that concrete debris can be buried legally as long as the rebar is cut off. This saved money and helped improve the grounds as well as security at the site.
In addition to the new berm, a new security gate has been installed. The new gate has an electric key pad allowing tenants access to the site but helping to keep others out which is good for the businesses because it increases safety and security.
According to Ted Werner, Port Authority board member, the gate will help address problems with people coming in and doing damage.
All of these efforts help the Port Authority draw new businesses to Libby, Werner said. Extensive work has been done within the port boundaries, cleaning up from the fires that happened, and removing the broken and damaged concrete.
The Port Authority’s 400 plus acres include about half of a mile of railway which is also an asset for drawing new businesses. A functional rail spur has been completed and they have a switch engine to move train cars in and out.
According to Tina Oliphant, the challenge that remains is finding the right industry, but BNSF is helping too. The Lincoln County Port Authority is one of just 17 sites in the US and Canada that has been certified by BNSF, so they help market it too.
“I appreciate what Brett McCully and Tina Oliphant do for us. They work hard and accomplish good things. Also, having the county commissioners involved in the meetings is a real asset. It’s important for them to understand what progress is being made and help us make the decisions,” said Werner.
Werner serves on the board along with fellow community-member, Tony Petrusha, and the three Lincoln County Commissioners.
The board and staff are working to create a separate access and parking lot for the recreational area where the kids fishing pond and motocross track are located. There is also access to a trail system that connects all the way to J. Neils Park at the site. They are applying for a grant that would move a permanent pit toilet to the recreation site, the area will have secured access to protect against vandalism, and it is hoped that a playground and picnic area can be added too.
“It will have real community benefit. Currently the fish pond sees a lot of activity, and so does motocross during the right time of year. Once the balance of amenities are established, more people will be back there using it,” said Werner.
A specific timeline has not yet been released, but planning is in the works and hopefully, by late spring, even more progress will have been made.
Top: Concrete debris at the Lincoln County Port Authority prior to construction of the new berm. Cleanup of the debris has been a priority for a number of years, but until recently, no cost effective option had been proposed. Photo courtesy of Brett McCully, Lincoln County Port Authority.
Bottom: View of the Cabinet Mountains from the walking path along Libby Creek with the new berm, constructed from buried concrete debris, obstructing a view of the industrial areas of the Port Authority, helping to beautify the environment, and separating public access areas from industrial areas. Photo by Tracy McNew, The Montanian