The Clark Fork River and I have coexisted together for most of my life. I have enjoyed the serenity of floating along its currents on a one man yacht, round and rubber, more commonly known as an inner-tube. I have enjoyed the exhilaration at the end of a rod struggling to pull a large trout from its waters. I have enjoyed the satisfaction of becoming a small part of an immense effort to clean the river and restore it to something close to its past majesty. We work together. We play together. The Clark Fork will always be a large part of who I am.
I was born in Butte, Montana and, like a pile of mining tailings, I moved downstream and was deposited along the banks of the Clark Fork River: I grew up in Deer Lodge. Some of the mining tailings and I spent time playing together at Bum Bridge. Those tailings have since been removed, while I remain.
As a teenager I spent a summer working on a ranch, changing irrigation pipe, feeding livestock and driving tractors; this ranch is now home to the first major cleanup of the Clark Fork River on private land. I worked for a Texas businessman who owned the ranch in the Eighties. I was told it was both a tax write-off and a playground for him. I bought my first car with the money I earned that summer. I used to park it in the field so I could see it as I moved pipe on early mornings: a bright blue 1965 Ford Mustang. The car is gone as is the sun-bleached mullet that used to stick out of the back of my hat. Decades have passed since that magical summer and I have returned to work on that stretch of river. Now, instead of laboring to ensure that water flows onto hayfields, I am working to ensure that the water in the river and the land that surrounds it are cleaner and healthier than they have been for the past hundred years.
I am Coordinator for a non-profit group called the Clark Fork River Technical Assistance Committee, also known as CFRTAC. We have been important as a non-partial, trusted and reliable source of information for people involved in the Superfund cleanup of the Clark Fork River. We work with agencies responsible for the cleanup, their contractors, conservation groups, landowners and other community members interested in the cleanup. We try to maintain an independent and logical voice. Our decisions and opinions are based on solid information rather than a particular agenda. We hold a seat on the Design Review Team that provides guidance on the remediation and restoration designs that are developed on the river. I am proud and fortunate to be a part of CFRTAC and the work we do to improve the Clark Fork. We are available to assist you in becoming involved with and understanding the river cleanup.
Its your river. Jump in!
Darryl Barton, CFRTAC