Plans to renovate and relocate a former Columbia Gardens arch from a rural area west of Butte to Stodden Park in town might be impractical and too expensive to pull off, a top county official says.
“It may be more economical to replicate it,” said Parks Director J.P. Gallagher. “The costs are adding up.”
Among other things, lead-based paint would have to be stripped away in an environmentally safe manner and power lines would have to be lowered in 19 spots to get it to Stodden, he said.
New hopes of relocating the mostly wooden arch were sparked last September when the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation announced a $2.5 million donation to refurbish much of Stodden Park.
Those plans are still being developed, but there was immediate talk about the arch serving as a new gateway to Stodden between the soon-to-be completed carousel and the planned public pool and lazy river.
The arch, which once graced the front of the pavilion at the Columbia Gardens amusement park before it closed in 1973, has been sitting for decades at a spot off of Beef Trail Road several miles west of town.
It was moved to the base of the old Beef Trail Ski Area in 1975 in hopes it and other remnants from the amusement park could become a revived Columbia Gardens there. According to an official cited in a Montana Standard story in 1985, it cost $90,000 to move originally.
Some playground equipment is now part of Clark Park, but a new amusement park never materialized.
Gallagher said the arch is now owned by the families of Tim Dick and Stephanie Sorini, and they had been willing to donate it for Stodden. He said he called them about his concerns after relaying them to members of the Parks Board on Monday.
The structure has taken a beating by the elements over the years, but much of its lead-based paint remains on one side and would have to be safely removed, he said.
Many of the boards are rotted and would have to be replaced, Gallagher said, and power lines would have to be lowered in numerous spots on the way to Stodden — all requiring electricity to be shut off temporarily in those areas.
A final decision on relocation has not been made, Gallagher said, but it might be cheaper to replicate the arch at Stodden. That shouldn’t be too difficult to do because the existing structure does not include elaborate carvings or fixtures, he said.
The Spirit of Columbia Gardens building and planned carousel at Stodden, he said, were not original to the amusement park. The actual carousel burned during a large fire that damaged other parts of the park before it closed in 1973.
“Nothing original to the Columbia Gardens will be out there,” he said.
The county has contracted with Water & Environmental Technologies Inc. to do initial engineering and design work on an improvement plan for Stodden Park. The initial work includes utility needs and placement and drainage and landscaping considerations.