By Ron VandenBoom
Wahkpa Chu'gn Buffalo Jump and Kill Site has received a plaque recognizing it as a national historic site.
The 18-by-24-inch brushed-aluminum plaque contains a description of the site and a drawing in the right corner of a tepee and a covered wagon pulled by oxen.
The plaque, according to John Brumley, who along with his wife Anna, manages the attraction, will be mounted in the southeast corner of the Holiday Village Shopping Center parking lot near a teepee used to attract attention to the site.
Brumley said that while the site has been on the National Register of Historic Places for a number of years, the process to get the sign began three or four months ago. Brumley contacted the Montana Historic Preservation Office and worked with Ellen Baumler, a coordinator for the state Historical Society, to obtain the sign.
The Montana Historical Society provided the sign at no charge.
"It's a pretty big deal," Brumley said about the sign. "It's one more step along the road."
Other steps to upgrade the buffalo jump include stairs that Frontier Lawn and Landscaping began installing last Tuesday.
The steps will connect the entrance area at the top of the site to a path system being built at the bottom, Brumley said.
Baltrusch Construction Co. started work on the trail system earlier this month. The 8-foot-wide path, which will connect all five of the exhibit buildings at the site, will extend about 1,000 feet from the bottom of the stairs to the westernmost display building. It will contain rest areas for visitors and turn-around areas for what Brumley described as "an airport-type shuttle car."
Bids for the shuttle car, Brumley said, are being finalized this week by Craig Erickson, planner for Bear Paw Development Corp.
The stairs, which are of a National Park Service design, will also include rest areas where visitors can catch their breath on their way to or from the site.
Also included in the project are bathrooms, which will be located near the entrance to the site.
Brumley is unsure of the completion date for the stair project, but saidthe path portion of the upgrade is due to be completed about the middle of August and the stairs should be completed shortly after that.
The shuttle car and bathrooms should be on site sometime this fall, Brumley said.