Maybe it was guilt.
Maybe it was just a change of heart or catching a little Christmas spirit.
Maybe it just didn’t look right on someone’s wall.
Whatever the motive, someone returned half of an ornate $300 tree grate that recently went missing from the sidewalk just west of the Butte-Silver Bow Library.
“We wish to publicly thank the person/people for correcting this brief wrong,” Linda Palagi said in an email sent Monday afternoon to The Montana Standard. “We believe in Butte.”
Palagi is a member of Friends of the Urban Forest Board, which purchased 12 tree grates this year and had them placed in Uptown Butte to promote healthy trees and make sidewalks safer.
The grates were designed and made by Hawe Steel Design in Butte. All feature mine headframes, each hole was measured to fit, and ones near the library were installed this fall.
The grates help trees because they allow sunlight, water and air to pass through to ensure access to nutrients. They also guard soil and rooting systems, and, of course, make a city block look a little nicer.
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But one recent day, half of one turned up missing.
“We’re all heartsick,” Palagi told the Standard a few days before Thanksgiving. “We work really hard for everything we do because we don’t get much funding.”
Police were notified, Palagi said then, but who took it and why were unknowns.
“We discussed whether it was maybe on someone’s wall or whether somebody stole it for scrap metal,” she said.
Those are still unknowns and nobody knows precisely when the grate was returned, except it was sometime after the Standard wrote about the theft on Nov. 22.
Palagi said fellow Forest Board member Charlie O’Leary checked with the folks at Hawe Steel Design to see if they had made another one and replaced the missing piece.
They had not, Palagi said, so it is definitely the one that was taken. And then returned.
“So happy to report there is Christmas joy to be shared,” she said.
When asked if it restored her faith in Butte, she said, without any pause to think:
“Oh, I always have faith in Butte.”