Lt. Governor John Walsh assesses damage at Bannack State Park


Lt. Governor John Walsh assesses damage at Bannack State Park 7-22-13

BANNACK STATE PARK, Mont. - Bannack is just west of Dillon, the historic first capitol of the Montana Territory, and one of the most well preserved ghost towns in the state.

The park estimates the flood damaged the majority of the buildings.

When Lieutenant Governor John Walsh saw the flood damage in Bannack Monday morning, the power of the flash flood struck him immediately.

"Look at some of the mining equipment," Walsh said, "that has been moved several hundred yards. The stuff is made out of steel and it shows the impact the rains had."

But crews are already on the ground starting to clean up the town.

Walsh and Montana State Parks Administrator Chas Van Genderen toured Bannack Monday.

"It's just terrible," Van Genderen said, "and as the parks system, we're bringing all forces together to respond to this severe incident."

Cleanup is well underway at the state park, and although there is still a lot of work to be done, they are confident they can restore it back to its original glory.

Walsh said, "It's pretty amazing, the impact Mother Nature can have in a short period of time. This community was basically devastated."

Last week's flood swept through town, damaging some 80 percent of the buildings, wiping out board-walks, and forcing the cancellation of the annual Bannack Days celebration.

"This place has a significant economic impact on this area," Van Genderen said, "so we need to make sure we restore it as best as we can."

Walsh said the State will do what it can to help. He said, "The State will come in and see what we can do to augment the additional recovery."

A recovery that Assistant Park Manager Tom Lowe said is important to the people of Montana.

Lowe explained, "Bannack's been around for a long time and people have been coming here since they were little kids. They bring their children and grandchildren back to Bannack. It means a lot to a lot of people."

Fund-raising and volunteering opportunities are underway, including talks of a benefit dance.

An informational meeting about Bannack and the cleanup progress will be held this Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Dillon Old Depot Theater.

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