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Libby's new Peace Officer Park a place for all community members

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Hagadone News Network | December 20, 2023 12:00 AM

There’s little question that Libby’s newly named ‘Peace Officer Park’ is one of extreme community involvement.

City councilors, after much discussion at two separate meetings, finally decided on the new moniker for the park located next to the city police station on Mineral Avenue at the Nov. 20 meeting.

In April, Council voted to use $5,000 from the community development fund to remove a power pole from the location. 

In October, council accepted a $7,320 grant from the LOR Foundation to construct a concrete pad and move a heat pump to the building’s roof that also houses the Libby Volunteer Fire Department.

LOR Libby Community Officer Tabitha Viergutz said then the grant will cover the cost of the pad, moving the heat pump and the paint that will be used to do a mural.

Students from the Libby Central School taught by Heather Robertson began painting the mural in early November. Only cold weather conditions halted their work, but the students will complete it next spring when temperatures are high enough to prevent the paint from peeling or causing bubbles and bumps.

“Peace Officer Park has evolved from a space where overgrown lilacs and a dying tree were removed into a park,” Mayor Peggy Williams said. “Thanks to the Boy Scouts and the Society of America Foresters, April Rainy, Rotary Club of the Kootenai Valley, Libby Central School students and their instructor Heather Robertson, the space has become a community park. A lot of people contributed to the transformation, even more people will benefit from the space, now a park, where they can sit, eat, or just rest.”

The project has also received a hand from Robertson’s husband, Dennis, known to most as “Buzz.” His company, Busy Bee Construction, donated a scissor lift, power washer and paint sprayer to aid in the students’ work.

The 10-foot diameter mural will sit behind the metal wings that the late Todd Berget made, and commissioned by the Kootenai Valley Rotary Club, before his passing in 2019.

Council discussed naming of the park at length. Consideration of a moniker began in October.

At the time, one suggestion was to honor former Libby Chief of Police John Ferdinand Bockman who died in the line of duty after being shot on April 28, 1924. Bockman, a veteran of World War I, was Libby’s only police officer at the time. Bockman was able to return fire and the man who shot him died a few days later.

Other suggestions included naming it in honor of Berget or maybe former Libby Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tom Wood. Rotary Club of the Kootenai Valley President Bruce Weatherby thought Rotary Peace Park was a good idea.

At the November meeting, Rotary Club’s Gary Huntsberger said Council faced, “a kinda difficult situation.”

“Rotary has been very involved in the community and continues to be. We’re not better than anyone else, but we’ve been heavily involved in many things in Libby for many years.

“I don’t know how you pick one over another, hopefully no one will be disappointed,” Huntsberger said.