Planners and history lovers in our state are moving towards decision-making regarding construction of the new Montana Heritage Center, for which the 2019 Legislature provided partial funding, spending authority for donations and grants, and prescribed a Helena location.
Few Montanans, however, are aware that HB 5, also passed and signed May 10 by the governor, further requires in Section 12 that the Department of Administration "shall … analyze, negotiate, and pursue purchasing the area bounded by Prospect avenue, 11th avenue, North Sanders street, and North Oakes street in Helena ... as the location of the Montana Heritage Center."
Although the IR Editorial Board supported on May 5 the cramped 6th Ave. and Roberts St. site, it appears that opinion may have been based solely on provisions of SB 338. That limited vision provides a scaled-down building that would take valuable parking and maintenance space near the Capitol.
I write because for decades citizens have supported construction of a high-quality, welcoming destination facility for our state at the Capital Hill Mall site — every time it came up for sale! Now we have one last opportunity in this century to realize the dream of Betty Babcock and so many others to purchase about 6 acres of mall property and raise funds for a center that will present our history and legacy not only to residents and school children coming in buses, but also to thousands of tourists, with enough space for RV parking, expansive exhibits, educational endeavors, rotating town and county exhibits, the Tour Train, Capitol shuttle and all Montana Historical Society staff and services under one roof.