Julia Crain's passion for her hometown inspires role as urban planner in Butte, Montana

Julia Crain: "The place I wanted to be an urban planner was here." Meagan Thompson, The Montana Standard

Julia Crain: "The place I wanted to be an urban planner was here." Meagan Thompson, The Montana Standard

Article republished courtesy of the Montana Standard

by Mike Smith, Montana Standard

In her much younger days, Julia Crain thought she would be a lawyer.

Her interests and school work took her in a different direction, so after getting a bachelor’s degree in public affairs at Seattle University, she pursued a master’s degree in urban and regional planning at Portland State University.

For some time then, she thought she would put her masters to work in a big city — maybe Portland, maybe Seattle — and perhaps return someday to Butte.

But while gravitating toward courses focused on communities and neighborhoods, she found herself writing about places back home like Centerville and Chinatown. And it hit her.

“I realized that not only did I want to be an urban planner, but the place I wanted to be an urban planner was here,” said Crain, now 34.

In different capacities, she’s been doing that for the Butte-Silver Bow Planning Department since 2011.

She’s worked on zoning issues, helped enhance open spaces such as the Big Butte, and handled programming aspects of Butte’s Superfund process through the Natural Resource Damage Program and other avenues.

Her formal title is special projects planner, which can encompass most anything that enhances the Butte area, including land uses for specific areas and improving the Silver Bow Creek and Blacktail Creek corridors.

When told she can do what most people involved in the complex, technical and acronym-filled world of Superfund cannot do — put things in terms average folks can understand — she downplayed the compliment.

“I have been doing this work now for seven years and through that experience, I talk to a lot of people and I’m able to listen to them and maybe understand where some of the miscommunication is,” Crain said.

Among other things, she’s currently helping redesign the web page for PitWatch, an organization that educates Butte residents, students and visitors about the Berkeley Pit and related issues.

A few years ago, Crain helped jump-start Butte Elevated, a coordinated campaign to market and promote Butte as a unique place with the “perfect balance of small-town charm and big-city feel.”

No matter what the cause, Crain is passionate about Butte. It runs in the family.

Her grandfather was a miner here, her father a boilermaker and her mother, Ellen, is director of the Butte-Silver Bow Archives. Julia will pass all that on to her 22-month-old daughter, Thea.

“I love what Butte has contributed to me, given me in my life,” she said. “I love that there is a place like Butte where you can be at home … and take all of the little bits of gold you have in yourself — and it’s not just me, but everyone — and make it a better place.”

Republished courtesy of the Montana Standard in December 2018