I remember opening my first edition of PitWatch at my grandpa and grandma Lester’s dining room table as an 11-year old in 2002. The publication in those days was as fresh as it could be; it contained the latest water levels and flow updates, even breaking news about the then-upcoming Consent Decree. However, like many in our community, the edition left me with many questions. 11-year old Kayla’s mind raced. When did the pit begin filling? Who monitors this thing on a regular basis? Is someone watching this? Is it gonna flood? Why is it red? Are there fish in that thing?
My grandfather, Tom Lester, was a retiree from Montana Tech, surely he had answers for me. I looked at the edition number at the top of the PitWatch publication, and I remember asking “Grandpa, do you have all the old editions of PitWatch?” I was hungry for more information. Come to find out well, no, he didn’t have old editions. In fact, we were privileged to be getting the latest copy of PitWatch because it happened to be inserted into my grandparent’s subscription to The Montana Standard; and not everyone in Butte can afford a subscription to the newspaper my grandpa was happy to remind me.
Those editions of PitWatch left me feeling a little scared because I wanted to know as much as possible and I didn’t know where to go as a kid. Sure, I could have reached out to a committee member, but it was 2002, and I was 11. I didn’t have an email address or a cell-phone. The internet was “new” and little info about the Berkeley Pit existed online. I didn’t understand the updates found in a single edition of PitWatch. I wanted to see the background, the science, and the management of the Berkeley Pit as a full picture. As little as 17-years ago, the average Butte community member did not have immediate access to the whole wealth of knowledge about the Berkeley Pit.
Flash forward to 2019, and we can now bring you the entire collection of knowledge, research, updates, history, and science behind the Berkeley Pit in one place. You can send us an email and get a reply in as little as a day! PitWatch.org is the only resource you will find that has been vetted by both scientists, industry professionals, AND most importantly, our own Butte community members.
As the communications coordinator for this website, I took it on as a personal challenge to help out those 11-year olds looking for all of the answers. I am blessed to work with a committee who has been in this business since before I was in Kindergarten. This committee is dedicated and committed to helping our community better understand the complexities of the Berkeley Pit. I welcome feedback on the website and want the information on found here to be as easily understood as possible. Please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments.
On a personal note – I’m not scared of this “thing” anymore. I feel empowered. I know this community can make a difference and I believe in our persistence, adaptability, and strength. If there is a city on earth who could be handed this type of card; it’s Butte. I believe in Butte and her people. And in case you are wondering; it’s not going to flood and spill into the city (scientifically impossible!) and, no, there aren’t fish in it!
Kayla Lappin (Lester)
Clark Fork Watershed Education Program (CFWEP) Communications and Events Coordinator