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DARBY – What once was an ugly little eyesore smack in the middle of downtown Darby is being transformed into a centerpiece for both locals and visitors alike.

In the space where a building burned down years ago, the South Valley Civic Group has worked with the community to create a new pocket park they’ve named “Sacajawea Rest.”

At its center is a life-size bronze sculpture of Sacajawea with her infant, Jean Bapiste Charbonneau, that was paid for through community donations. A backdrop, concrete benches and tables were built by Trapper Creek Job Corps. Trees and other foliage were donated and cared for by volunteers.

On Thursday, it was Darby High School’s turn to add its own unique touch to the park.

Students of Darby High School shop teacher Max Fiedler spent more than 80 hours over the last couple of months building a new steel fence and a tepee entrance way into the pocket park. They used a plasma cutter to carve out a design created by civic group member Gay Finley.

“It was something the students absolutely wanted to do,” Fiedler said. “We always like to be able to help out in the community as much as we can. This definitely turned out to be one of our bigger steel projects…There was a lot of volunteer time that went into it.”

Sean Jackson was among the volunteers who offered his help Thursday to install the new fence.

“When we get this installed, it’s going to be theirs,” Jackson said. “It’s going to make them proud that they were part of this. It’s good to proud of something in your hometown.”

Laurie Owing Smith of the South Valley Civic Group leaned up against a nearby pickup truck as she watched the new wall take shape.

“We’ve really come a long way in a short time,” she said. “There have been a lot of volunteers invested in this project. I think people are really starting to enjoy it…We hope it will become that place that people will come for a picnic or for families to gather.”

Sacajawea travelled through the area twice in her travels with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, including once on the Fourth of July. In commemoration of that, the civic club plans to host its second annual Sacajawea Day on July 7. The event will including music, a book signing by Lewis and Clark trail author Ted Hall, pie and ice cream, carriage rides and a car show. Trapper Creek Job Corps students will offer children’s games and face painting.

There will also be a raffle for a fisherman’s package.

“We still need to raise some more money to help pay for making the deck nicer and adding power,” Owing Smith said. “We want to keep making it a little bit nicer. It’s been a lot of fun for a lot of people.”

Deric Parks of Darby High School smiled as he kept steady pressure on the rope that held the new tepee entrance upright.

“I spent my last six days of school welding on it,” Parks said. “My welding did improve.”

Darby High School student Ryley Conner said the project shows the community just what the school can accomplish for the community.

“I think this is going to be really good for the school,” Conner said. “It shows just how far we’ve come along in the last couple of years. People can now see what we can do.”

Anthony Fossen, Nick Beiler and Drake Horvath also helped with the installation.

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Associate Editor

Reporter for The Ravalli Republic.