Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres said he wants to create a new entry way into the Great Falls National Park from West Broadway.
Torres said 30,000 to 40,000 cars travel through West Broadway near Ryle Avenue. He wants to take advantage of the vehicular traffic to attract visitors through another entrance to the national park. The mayor said he intends to use the city’s abandoned properties ordinance to acquire the properties that lie in the area on Ryle Avenue near West Broadway.
“We’re moving to remove that blightedness from the car dealership to the old liquor store up to Matlock Street so that we can create a gateway,” said Torres on Thursday afternoon. He said the city has identified some of the buildings as “spot blight” and is moving forward with its lawyers to acquire the parcels.
The mayor said the animal control facility that is located on Ryle Road will be relocated to elsewhere in the city. Torres said the dog pound there with barking animals have been disturbing residents at a nearby housing complex. He also did not think it wise to keep a dog pound near the national park.
The area Torres wants to turn into a new entry way into the Great Falls lies outside the legislative borders of the national park. Darren Boch, superintendent of the national park, said a new entrance is feasible from that area. He noted the area is part of the Great Falls Historic District.
“The only building that will remain is the Ryle Hotel,” said Torres. He suggested the city will likely make use of the remaining building to honor the mayor who created the city’s coat of arms.
“Possibly one day the Ryle Hotel can be a visitor center,” said Torres. He said there’s also a suggestion to connect Alfano Island to the park using a bridge and potentially extend the river walk.