MISSOULA — The mild weather is helping crews get ahead of schedule with the massive reconstruction project at Caras Park and the key piece of equipment to preserve water quality on the Clark Fork River is already operating.
A lot has happened in the less than two months since contractors started the work at the park, which is not only reconfiguring the above-ground features but installing an infiltration gallery. That's a key piece of equipment to treat the stormwater coming off downtown from dumping contaminants directly into the river.
"So they have installed the infiltration gallery. That went in the bottom of that big deep hole they had," explained City of Missoula Engineer for Utilities Andy Schultz. "They've since backfilled that hole about a couple of feet shy of finished grade. They'll also have to fine-tune that come this spring."
The gallery's outflow is being changed, with the installation of equipment to keep high water from feeding back into the system in the spring, and a decorative headwall around the pipe's exit.
Schultz says the original construction plans have been changed a little bit so the trail along the edge of the construction zone will remain open through the winter months.
"So we made accommodations with the contractor and kind of modified our schedule to keep the bike path open for as long as possible. Kind of our initial plan was that that bike path would be getting torn up at the same time. But that would have had it shut down all winter."
For the Missoula Parks Department, work is already underway on the new amphitheater structure, which will provide additional seating and more accessible space. That will be followed by new landscaping and other improvements.
Schultz says the goal is to still have all the work wrapped up next spring.
"We didn't start construction until late this fall to make sure all the events in Caras Park were done. We'll hopefully wrap up late spring before the event season is in full swing down there."