Appreciated Bill Shaw
The death of former city manager Bill Shaw evokes sadness and invites some reflection. Decades before Bill came here, the city had rid itself of its 90-year reliance on mossy-tasting Cedar Creek for its municipal water supply. After that, the almost 400 acres of protective watershed surrounding the dam and intake was no longer municipally needed. In fact, part of it had been brutally clear-cut (slash heaps, knapweed and thistles) and neglected, and vehicle-accessible portions were being abused as dumping grounds and partying hideouts.
In 2005, he began developing the idea that the city could thoughtfully and carefully divest the hilly, partially wetland watershed area some 3 miles North of town, and then, with the sales proceeds – not property taxes -- acquire, before there were no more opportunities, parkland that could be more accessible and useful to the townspeople.
Bill thought it was regrettable that Columbia Falls, magnificently endowed as it is along the Flathead River, had never had the foresight to preserve for its citizens any recreational access to the river. There was the adjacent state fishing access, and the South Nucleus dead-end, but those could never be a city park with facilities for families and multiple uses.
Two years into the Cedar Creek divestment process, the 28-acre tract with 900 ft. of river frontage that we now call River’s Edge Park went on the market. The outcome was a wonderful thing. Bill also advocated establishing a permanent endowment fund to take care of it forever.
With a supportive city staff and forward-looking city council, his vision to exchange the old watershed for more useful public land, along the river, came to pass. This park is a perpetual legacy attributable to many people, but no one was more of its daddy than Bill. There are many benefits that my hometown can count among Bill Shaw’s legacies, but none surpass his endowment to us with the vision for and attainment of this park. I hope the city will name some future feature of the park to memorialize this good and thoughtful man.