RONAN – In Ronan this week, the future is tackling, and honoring, the past with a project that’s getting everyone involved.
For nearly 20 years, the iconic Ronan arch has welcomed people to turn off Highway 93 and make a stop in a town with one of the most beautiful landscapes in Montana.
But time was taking its toll on the landmark. So the community needed to come up with another plan. And that’s where Ronan High School seniors got involved, taking on the project to replace the arch. After weather forced the project to be postponed, volunteers with equipment from all over the Mission Valley gathered this morning to make way for the new arch.
For the students, the arch not only spans Main Street, but their entire career in school.
“It really does,” said Heather Gray of Ronan High School. “These guys don’t know anything besides the Ronan arch being in their lives. So for them it was really important to rebuild it because we realized we needed to take it down for safety reasons. And they saw, but we have to still have it. That’s Main Street. That’s what Ronan is. It’s kind of cool for them.”
Armed with bucket trucks, cranes, chainsaws and a lot of rope, the teams descended on the arch and made fairly short work of the project. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t tricky. Hardware exposed to the elements for two decades had to been loosened or removed, and the old timbers cut away, more than 40 feet above the ground.
After that tricky part of removing the center section, the next step was to cut away the supporting timbers on either side of the old arch.
With the side sections strapped in place, a torch sliced through the metal supports and the remaining big timbers were lifted away.
After 20 years withstanding the Mission Valley’s cold winters and thunderstorm summers, it’s obvious the plan to replace the arch is in everyone’s best interest. But best of all, the new design will incorporate sturdier materials, meaning these high school students will likely be grandparents when this has to happen again.
Preserving and enhancing that legacy is all part of the Ronan Chamber’s objectives.
“And that’s part of Chamber’s goal, is to rebuild Main Street to be an avenue that people want to go down and see,” Gray said. “This helps. Some of the grants we received were part of that, is to help rebuild Main Street. So the project’s been kind of a big piece for the whole community.”
The seniors hope to finish getting the new arch ready for installation by the end of this school year.
Volunteers and sponsors in the Ronan arch project include:
Western Building Center, Mission Valley Power, Access Montana, Jason Delaney, Cross Diamond Boom Service, Access Montana, Jennison Tree Service, City of Ronan and Street Department staff, Dupuis Lumber, Cordell Hardy, Les Schwab, Valley Banks, Glacier Bank, and the Arch Committee!
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News