City may consider closing Bell Street near the bridge

By 
Hunter Herbaugh
Sunday, April 18, 2021
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Closing a portion of Bell Street could allow for options to enhance the entrance onto the Bell Street Bridge. Ranger-Review file photo

City officials will be exploring the possibility of permanently closing the last section of Bell Street leading up to the Bell Street Bridge. Discussion on the topic started at Wednesday’s meeting of the city’s Street Committee when Councilman Gerald Reichert noted that now is probably the best time to do so, as the section of Bell Street in question is already closed off due to the construction of the water treatment facility.

Reichert explained that this is an issue he and Councilwoman Betsey Hedrick have been discussing as a way of enhancing the area around the entrance to the bridge. However, he also noted that doing so would not be simple, as the area also serves as the access point to the water treatment facility and the city has a large amount of infrastructure in the area.

“We don’t envision the street going away because we have to get trucks and everything into the water treatment plant. We also, in those streets, have a lot of infrastructure in the ground, a tremendous amount in the ground. So that all has to stay there with basically nothing on top of it,” he said. “The idea is just to have an entranceway onto the Bell Street Bridge.”

Reichert also noted that the river is becoming a focal point of downtown and thinks a green space would be beneficial in that regard. He also noted he has ideas on what to do with the GTA tower and the concrete slab that was once the former recycling center.

The idea immediately drew some excitement from Teresea Olson and Jason Stuart, members of the Downtown Master Plan Committee who were present at the meeting for unrelated matters but shared their thoughts on the subject of potentially developing a new green space along the river. Hedrick is also on the Downtown Master Plan Committee.

Stuart noted the committee has discussed the subject before.

“We have discussed this, Teresea and I both think this would be a great first step,” Stuart said. “What the city should be thinking about is a long-term plan to try to redevelop that river front. As an economic development director, my hope is that 20 years from now, we look at that river front and it looks totally different, that it’s a real focal point for the community, that there’s businesses down there. Coming from Louisiana, I’ve said this before, it’s mind boggling to me that we’ve got this beautiful river front and it’s an industrial wasteland.”

Stuart also noted that Community GATE has expressed some interest in donating the land that the former recycling center and the GTA tower sit on to the city to turn into a park, providing opportunity to have a park on both sides of the bridge.

Reichert added that one of his ideas was to turn the tower into a climbing wall, something that Stuart noted is becoming a popular thing to do with similar empty buildings in other communities. He said he has even looked into non-profits and other organizations that work on establishing large climbing walls.

“That size of climbing wall, I guarantee you, people are going to stop in Glendive to do that,” he said.

However, Reichert also acknowledged that there are a lot of things to take into consideration when proposing something like this, such as liability and responsibility.

City Public Works Director Frank Ceane also noted that there are some things that have to be kept in mind regarding the area and how the city uses it. One of those things being that the intersection of Clough Street and Bell Street is a primary point where semitrucks can turn to enter the water treatment facility as the other intersections along Clough Street are far too narrow.

Councilman Rhett Coon suggested that to move the conversation forward, Ceane could draw up plans that he believes will allow the area to be reworked while also leaving enough space for large vehicles to maneuver.

As this is the start of a discussion, the committee did not make any recommendations or decisions on the topic. However, the matter will be open at the next meeting of the city council for the remaining council members to offer their own opinions.

The next meeting of the city council is scheduled for Tuesday, April 20 at 7 p.m. in the city council chamber at city hall.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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