Designs and decisions aren’t final yet, but a “master plan” in the works for Stodden Park that features an additional way in off of Rowe Road; a new arch at the current entrance; a midway area with a mining feel; and a “destination playground” so cool, it alone might draw folks to Butte.
Also in the preliminary mix are new and resurfaced tennis courts; more picnic shelters; more than 100 additional parking spaces; an ice-skating ribbon; and new benches, planters, and woody ornamental trees to add splashes of color.
They’re among improvements and additions envisioned as part of a major makeover of Stodden Park in Butte made possible by a $2.5-million donation from the Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation and Montana Resources.
They’ll be over and above two of Butte’s biggest coming attractions in years, both at Stodden: a “Spirit of Columbia Gardens” carousel 20 years in the making that’s expected to open this summer and an $8.7-million pool and lazy river that could open on Memorial Day weekend a year from now.
Plans for the additional Stodden improvements aren’t set in stone, and some envisioned amenities are only possibilities.
“We are still fairly early in the process, and we can move some things around,” said Josh Vincent, a co-founder of Water & Environmental Technologies, an environmental engineering consulting company in Butte and lead designer of the Stodden project.
The firm has been working closely with other stakeholders in the project, Vincent told commissioners during a presentation last week. They include the Butte-Silver Bow Parks Division and its board, Montana Resources, and committees overseeing the pool and carousel projects.
More meetings with them are planned, Vincent said, to ensure “we get input from all the folks.” But they hope to have final designs by August with some preliminary work possible in the fall.
“People are going to have to be patient, but when we get this thing all done, we are going to have quite a gem of a park here,” he said.
Parks Director J.P. Gallagher said with construction work on the pool and park project going on simultaneously, parts of Stodden will get messy. But a couple of years from now, the payoff will be evident.
“It will be fantastic,” said Gallagher, who has been juggling all three projects since he became parks director in July 2015. “There are some beautiful parks in Montana, but there won’t be any parks in Montana that have all the amenities we have.”
Getting in and out
Like the carousel and waterpark, several improvements planned for Stodden Park itself will play off of features or themes that were common to the Columbia Gardens amusement park that delighted folks for decades in Butte before closing in 1973.
But initial hopes to renovate and relocate a former Columbia Gardens arch from a rural area west of Butte to Stodden Park have been all but abandoned because it would be too impractical and expensive to pull off.
But Butte architect Pete Godtland, who designed the Montana Tech arch and the one that now spans the lone entrance to Stodden off of Utah Avenue, has designed a new one with Columbia Gardens in mind (see rendition).
The hope is to add an additional vehicle entrance to the park off of Rowe Road, just south of Lexington Avenue and the Newland & Co. accounting building. It would skirt between a ball field to the north and the golf course to the south and lead into the parking area.
Planners are working with the Montana Department of Transportation and Butte-Silver Bow Public Works trying to make that happen. As envisioned now, the street would be lined with trees that would give cars some protection from golf balls.
As part of relocating and rearranging utilities, large power boxes now located at the front of Stodden would be moved to the east. An entirely new storm-water system has been designed, too.
“We want to make sure the entrance is very inviting, so we are also considering installing a roundabout in the facility to add flow in and out of the park,” Anthony Laslovich, a project engineer for WET, told commissioners.
There are plans to expand parking from 227 spaces to 369 with an additional 126 “overflow” spaces by the National Guard facility if an agreement can be worked out.
“Anyone who has been out there for an event understands there is limited parking, so we are really looking at what is the most cost-efficient and effective way to add additional parking,” Laslovich said.
Tennis, hoops, ice skating
As part of a geotechnical study, engineers discovered that a previous trench of trash and debris buried beneath three of the existing six tennis courts at Stodden is the root of settling problems that have rendered them useless and unsafe.
About 1,300 cubic yards of material will be dug up and removed and replaced with moisture-conditioned fill. New courts will replace the old ones there, and the other three existing courts will be resurfaced. New poles, netting, fencing, shade screens, and bleachers to the side will be put in.
Two basketball goals will be placed on the side of the courts so people can shoot hoops when others are not playing tennis. The “dual purpose” courts will save space elsewhere, Gallagher said.
A new drainage area planned for just behind the carousel building could double as an “ice-skating ribbon” during the long winter months. The twisty, curvy loop would look much like the planned lazy river going in as part of the water park.
Hopefully, Gallagher said, the ribbon will encourage people to visit the park and the carousel in the winter.
The midway connection
To connect most everything in the park – the pool and carousel and tennis courts and golf course – a new midway commons area with all-new landscaping and “hardscape” walking surfaces will run right down the middle.
There would be an area to sit before and after enjoying the pool and carousel, benches and raised planters that could double as seating, possibly two more picnic shelters, and perhaps a new restroom building.
The area would be dotted with new plants and flowers, and the light posts and lamps would mimic those of yesteryear in the mines.
Nathan Steiner, an architect with the Billings firm of Steiner-Thuesen PLLC, said walkways and other hard-surface areas might have different designs and there will be new trees throughout.
“We will use perennials and ornamentals to add color and interest throughout the year,” he said.
Plans also call for a “destination playground” that would entail one large play-space with a slide and other features designed for kids aged 2-5, including those with disabilities “of many different types so they could play with other children,” Steiner said.
There would be a separate, “physically active” area for kids aged 5-12 with large-scale features such as a wide, 22-foot tall “M Mountain” with grassy areas and rock walls for climbing. As envisioned now, there also would be small forts and a 40-foot high mine-like headframe.
There might also be a zip-line, though Gallagher said it would be safe because kids would be harnessed in and only ride about a foot off the ground.
The entire playground would be so cool, planners say, it could draw families from outside of Butte just by itself.
Designs and plans are still in the works, so there is time for more public input and adjustments, Gallagher said. But Vincent said if things go well, plans could be finalized by August.
“The plan is to get this out in the fall, and the hope is some work gets done by the end of the year,” he said.