The Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump is centuries old, but there may be changes coming to the site’s buildings in the next few months.
At Monday night’s H. Earl Clack Memorial Museum Board meeting in the Holiday Village Mall, Anna Brumley, manager of the bison kill-site, updated the board on future developments of the facilities behind the mall.
The buffalo jump has been attempting to secure funding to spruce up their existing exhibit houses through a few different grants, including the Montana Department of Commerce’s Tourism Infrastructure Investment Program grant that was approved.
After having trouble finding contractors to do the work required within the parameters of the grant, the board will be working over the next month or two to repair and replace the exhibit buildings with a loan from private foundation endowment funds, instead of those provided by the TIIP grant.
“We thought their ‘free money’ was too expensive for us to use, ” Foundation President Elaine Morse said. “We will basically borrow from ourselves to get the project done and then pay ourselves back. ”
Krystal Steinmetz, of Bear Paw Development Corp., helped the board get the competitive grant. According to Steinmetz, in the year that the buffalo jump's grant was approved, they were awarded a piece of the state’s $500,000 allotted for the Tourism Infrastructure Investment Program. More than $2 million in projects were proposed.
The buffalo jump was ranked first in the state as a priority for the program.
Though the board may be moving forward without the funds, Steinmetz said the funds will be used but had no specifics at this point.
Another project in its early days, pending final approval, is to build an interpretive center for the buffalo jump.
The board is trying to work with YouthBuild to have those at-risk youths, who are learning construction skills, construct the outer shell of a building that would be the center.
The shell would be built during the last part of the upcoming fall semester at Montana State University-Northern and then moved to the buffalo jump in the winter.
Though an agreement is still pending, YouthBuild Program Director Bob Anderson said he thought it would be great for everyone involved.
“It’s a great opportunity for YouthBuild and it’s a great opportunity for the community, ” Anderson said. “It’s for a non-profit. It’s great exposure. It’s great for the students. ”
If Bear Paw Development, YouthBuild and the museum board are all allowed to proceed, the buffalo jump could look like a whole new place by the end of the year.