The general public — including walkers and the wheelchair-bound — can now enjoy a newly restored pump house and walking trail that meanders along Hefner’s Dam on North Cable Road in Anaconda.
The newly renovated recreation area — which is called the L.F. “Lorry” Thomas Wildlife Area — includes a half-mile trail that follows the old dike along the dam.
The trail meanders through a pond and wetlands before turning back toward Anaconda's archery range on North Cable Road. Benches are positioned along the way, and the whole thing is encapsulated by the restored pump house, which is connected to a parking lot and metal bridge that traverses Warm Springs Creek and leads to the trail.
Once used by the Anaconda Company to divert the water to the Old Works Smelter, the pump house was empty and unused when the project began.
On a recent sunny day, Anaconda resident Terry Mickey walked alone on the new trail, enjoying the quiet morning, with a set of binoculars draped around his neck and a Global Positioning System device snapped to his shirt pocket. He told The Montana Standard he likes to hit the trails that surround Anaconda and take in the natural scenery. The area is plentiful with deer, Mickey said, noting that last winter he saw a herd of elk take refuge near Stumptown Road.
Mickey said he’s happy that the trail has opened. He tries to walk regularly and accumulates several miles every day, which he keeps track of with his GPS. The benefits are far-reaching.
“I’ve been doing it for two years now, and I’ve lost 102 pounds,” said Mickey.
As an advocate for recreation, that’s the kind of story that Mark Sweeney likes to hear.
Sweeney — who was tapped three years ago by the Washoe Park Foundation to lead a park and trail improvement project — said increasing access to healthy activities like walking is just one of the motivations behind rehabbing Hefner's Dam. Unique features, like the pump house, add interest to the trail.
Now pedestrians are greeted by the renovated pump house featuring a corrugated-steel exterior. The interior, Sweeney said, contains wood original to the building that has been cleaned and oiled. In addition to a new roof and concrete floor, light fixtures have been installed, along with a ramp to make the trail handicapped-friendly.
Anaconda-based Jordan Contracting and the Anaconda Job Corps provided the labor for the project, Sweeny said. He’s recruited workers from almost every Job Corps program, including those in metal manufacturing and masonry. Sweeney said he wants workers from the culinary arts program to cater an official grand opening of the trail on June 28.
Sweeney added that, although the public can now access the trail and pump house, there’s more work to be done, including installing a latrine, sprinkler system, and landscaping.
Keith Lovell, Ben Shupert, and Josh Dohr are three Anacondans who have an affinity for archery.
At least once a week the men can be seen drawing their bows at the Anaconda archery range, where the Hefner trail terminates.
The trio said they noticed several people walking on the new trail last week and that they often like to take advantage of trails near Anaconda themselves.
Shupert said he walks with his wife and children on the trail in Washoe Park. Because the trail is paved and maintained, his kids can walk easily.
Sweeney, meanwhile, said accessibility is another reason why officials wanted to install the trail around Hefner’s Dam, which until now has only been accessible by walking through thick vegetation.
“Regardless of age or condition, anyone can walk in,” he said.
He noted that Washoe Park is about 100 years old and that he hopes the new recreation area will also stand the test of time.
The trail marks the culmination of a nearly four-year long project for Sweeney.
In 2013 the Washoe Park Foundation receive a $1.5 million grant from the Natural Resource Damage Program for a park and trail improvement project, part of which went toward improving park entrances, restoring a duck pond, and extending a trail within the park to Hefner’s dam. Sweeney said about a third of the grant went toward building the new Hefner trail and recreation area.
As the threat of vandalism hangs over any public recreation facility, Sweeny hopes trail users will be self-policing.
“I really hope people will take a lot of pride in it,” he said.