By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor

BIG SKY – After two years of work on the proposed Big Sky Entryway monument, volunteer Ryan Hamilton is passing the baton to Big Sky Chamber Director Kitty Clemens.

Clemens is putting together a design-build advisory committee of a dozen or so people to help drive the project.

These people will “represent key community stakeholders,” Clemens said, naming the Arts Council, Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Moonlight and Big Sky resorts, Resort Tax Board, Big Sky Owners Association, Town Center, and the Big Sky Community Corp.

Architect Jamie Daugaard, of Centre Sky Architecture, will draw up two proposed designs for the monument, to get the conversation started.

Currently, one design has a national park theme, Daugaard said, with rougher stones, logs or timber, some steel and a viewing tower. The other design is more contemporary, with “cleaner lines,” a steel shroud and I-beams or C channels. In either design, he imagines a propane flame surrounded by the translucent stone calcite, similar to what’s found at Redcliff, south of Big Sky. There will be informative signage built in, and both designs would be completed in two more phases, the third being a bridge that crosses Lone Mountain Trail.

Resort tax allocated $15,000 for the design this year. According to the application, the money will be used for architectural design and legal work for drafting the easement.

Once the advisory council has reviewed design options, it will host a town hall meeting this winter and invite members of the public to come and discuss the project.

“There’s still consensus that needs to happen,” Clemens said. “What time of year are we building? How to we raise the money? Who do we tap?” She and Hamilton applied for a Tourism Infrastructure Investment Program grant from the Montana Tourism office this year, but were denied funds for the project. They plan to re-apply next year and also seek federal surface transportation funds.

Oct. 9 meeting: Crail Ranch annex to open in Visitors Center

Community calendar stalled, visitor numbers up

At its Oct. 9 board meeting, the Chamber board passed a motion to allow the Historic Crail Ranch Museum to have an annex in the Chamber’s Visitor Information Center.

“There really is history in Big Sky,” said Chamber president David O’Connor. “There was life here before 1972. It wasn’t just when the resort opened that the clock started ticking.”

Consensus was, while this was a positive move, it was an indefinite agreement.

In her director’s report at that meeting, Clemens brought up the community calendar, which the Jackson-based AllTrips promised would be completed by summer’s end.

“They are still trying to plug forward,” she said. “It’s still on [AllTrips] end, technical issues [they have] not been able to overcome.” The plan is to have it ready and functional before winter visitors start to show up, and to have it be free to the Big Sky community.

Ryan Hamilton, who’s been spearheading the entry lighting project, has procured permits from the department of transportation and also bids from local contractors. The bids came in higher than expected, so the Chamber board is contemplating its options.

The Chamber’s visitor numbers have been up since moving to its new location this summer, reported VIC manager Danielle Chamberlain at the meeting. Since July 13, nearly 5,000 people came into the chamber, compared to just under 2,000 visitors between May 25 and Sept 30, 2011. The top state for this summer was Minnesota, with Illinois and Texas tied for second.