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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

BNSF donates key piece of real estate for Helena, Mont., park

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After a decade of talks, Centennial Park in Helena, Mont., is finally whole, the Helena Independent Record reports. BNSF officially donated a 9.1-acre former Great Northern spur line to the city last month, prompting an official thank-you from city commissioners this week.

The property, which bisects the former trash dump, is valued at $1.023 million. It's a crucial piece of the multimillion-dollar effort to turn the 55-acre spread at the heart of Helena into a multipurpose playground for kids and adults. Construction is set to begin in earnest this summer as crews begin earthwork for the two-year project. When finished, the park will be home to miles of trails, shelters, sports fields, the expanded skateboard park, and a planned dog park, free-ride bike course and a climbing facility.

The old railway spur, which used to serve a lumber mill, beer distributor and other businesses, will provide a reliable corridor for installing utility lines, because it provides a sub-grade of dirt instead of garbage.

"It is a tremendous thing and it's gone on for a long time," Mayor Jim Smith said in a meeting Monday. "It's going to make a difference in this community for a long, long time."

"BNSF recognizes the vision of this significant public project and this donation ... this will tie together the entire complex, which is certainly a benefit to the community," railroad spokesman Gus Melonas said.

Workers will sample the top two feet of dirt on the land to test for contamination, and state Department of Environmental Quality officials will decide whether the property must be cleaned up before construction can start.

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