by jhwygirl

Tomorrow night, City Council will take the steps towards moving forward with very early plans for a new regional park at Fort Missoula. The consideration for tomorrow night is approval of $90,000 for design development which would provide cost estimation and a phasing plan for 25 acres of what may eventually be an 82 acre park. The plans would include a sports complex, picnic area, historic interpretations, trails, native and formal gardens and numerous other amenities. Many of this is outlined in the 2002 Fort Missoula site plan adopted by City Council.

With Missoula’s exploding growth, a regional destination park at Fort Missoula is an excellent idea. Soccer and baseball fields are crowded – and analysis shows that of all major Montana cities, Missoula has the least number of athletic fields per capita. Missoula provides less than half of the recommended athletic fields per capita as recommended.

I have friends who bring their children here for soccer games and soccer tournaments from all over Montana – fields are crowded, parking and traffic flow is poor. Last summer, her daughter’s team bus was struck by a vehicle in a crowded exit of the fields up the Rattlesnake. Any parent could tell you that could be traumatic – especially when your child is 120 miles from home.

Our parks generate revenue for this area – families come and stay in hotel rooms, they eat dinner in our restaurants, and then there is the obligatory shopping spree at the mall or Costco or wherever…all businesses that employ Missoulians.

What is clear is that to plan something like this, it is going to take some cash. We’ve done the master plan, and now Parks & Rec is asking for some cash to plan and project costs. A properly done regional destination park can’t be simply thrown together. You all know the saying – you’ve got to spend money to make money.

A park at Fort Missoula is a great idea. Let’s hope that council can come together on this an realize that it is a summary of many things – quality of life, investment in the community that is lacking what so many other communities have across the state, and investment in economic viability. It’s a good thing for many – not just the kids, but local businesses.

I’ll go further here and suggest that instead of bemoaning the fact that the historic buildings at the County Fairgrounds need saved, move them down there with Fort Missoula. There’s 92 acres – and the county even owns land down there too. The fairgrounds used to be way out of town – but they are now surrounded by commercial development. There’s little room for parking when the fair is actually in town – and the real estate would serve a far more valuable service as affordable housing if paired and planned as a housing trust.

And let’s not forget that not just people making 80% and less than the median need affordable housing. The working people – police, fire, nurses, small business – everyone – needs affordable housing. Frankly, I’m tired of all this focus on providing grant monies to those at 80% and less….there’s a hell of a lot of people out there struggling.

I see I’ve digressed to rant.

With that being said, I’ll add one more: Why is the bond that is being considered only for city residents? With a regional park, it seems to me that there are going to be people from all over the county using it. Kids from (at the very least) Frenchtown, Lolo and Clinton would be playing soccer on those fields. Rugby, baseball, and football players from all over. Little Griz….

If there’s going to be a bond, I suggest that the whole county chip in. Not only does that spread out the costs – it probably gets it done faster.


  1. edchilders

    Why not have the whole county participate? Because that got tried before and the county folks said no. (I think the city folks said no, too, by a small margin.)

    As for being a bond, the proposal is more convoluted than that. The Council will decide whether to have people vote on a 9 mil levy. 7 mils of the levy would be for 20 years and be used to repay a bond that would be sold to finance improvements. 2 mils of the levy would be perpetual and would be used for maintenance of the regional park.

    The 90 thousand for design etc. is important for the future of the park whether we let voters decide on a levy now or not, and whether voters decide to do it now, or not.

    You can grind your way down to a bunch of information if you start at the City Council Agenda.

  2. When was it tried Ed? Was it recent? We’ve experienced quite a bit of growth for a while now – the demographics and needs may have changed.

    I should of put that link in – Thanks…I spent time searching for the 2002 Fort Missoula master plan and couldn’t find it.

  3. Dan

    Your suggestion of moving the historic buildings from the fair grounds to Fort Missoula isnt very well thought out. Which buildings would be moved. Where would they go? What use would they have? Who’s property would they be placed on? Who would pay for this? The reality is that there isnt space at Fort Missoula to accomodate the fair grounds. But I think you are right about the county side of the issue, this will be a regional park. Equating the economic benefits with the city limits just doesnt seem to be the appropriate path.

  4. I used those playing fields at Fort Missoula for a soccer league last year and I could not believe how packed they were. Some more room would be a good thing.

  5. edchilders

    There’s a couple of things on the
    Parks website
    . The Dept. presentation looks to be over 7 MB.

    This looks like the new resolution

    It has a whereas that says 1995 was the other attempt.

    The advocacy group has this website:

    Regarding the diagonal road: I think the actual route is likely to be more of a rectangular loop in order to accommodate the needs of all the parties at the Fort.

  6. Dan

    I see Ed has found his crayons again. I dont think there’s any denying the need for the park. One big problem, at least from the nose-bleed section of the bleacher seats, is going to be the sticker shock at the price. Another problem, and maybe Ed has a better grip on this one, are those on the council and in our community who say this is a rush. The reality is that we as a community have been grapping with this for over a decade. Given the length of time involved how can this be a surprise?

  7. I’m not sure that anyone is rushing anything Dan. As most of the stuff is done, this has probably been banging around in city hall for at least months – if not longer. We just didn’t hear about it until as of late because (a) the Missoulian only recently began paying attention and (b) a whole bunch of stuff goes on in committee that is left to very rudimentary minutes and not as widely attended.

    At some point a decision has to be made to take the first real step. Tonight is probably that first step – bucking up the bucks to do a formal study/plan.

  8. goof houlihan

    “a whole bunch of stuff goes on in committee that is left to very rudimentary minutes and not as widely attended.”

    Probably, like emails during meetings, not a good idea for any city who thinks open government is a good idea, not just the law.

    County park districts, well, now, them cows and hay fields don’t need a soccer field, ball park, library, etc. If you try one, it might be possible to limit it to some kind of per residence tax. Maybe something that the legislature could do is exempt ag designations from park district levies, the way Gallatin County got open space bond levies exempted.

  9. Big Swede

    Billings has many parks and many club and school related althletic programs. The elementary football programs are locally based in neighborhood parks giving the young kids lots of experience before high school ball. The ability of these kids to walk to a local park and participate at young levels reflects in the success Billings has had in high school sports. Meaning of course, could you trace Missoula’s lacking performance in high school football back to park and program shortages? If you can….must resist….you may be right on this one.

  10. JC

    “Meaning of course, could you trace Missoula’s lacking performance in high school football back to park and program shortages?”

    I’ve been told it’s because liberal families make for poor football players. ;-)

  11. Big Swede

    I don’t know JC, Helena kicked our butts in the state champion game last fall.

  12. petetalbot

    Low blow, Big Swede: “Meaning of course, could you trace Missoula’s lacking performance in high school football … ?” There was a time when both Hellgate and Sentinel, and later Big Sky, wailed on Billings’ teams. Of course I couldn’t find those stats.

    The stats I did find were high school enrollments. Billings West, a powerhouse of late, has the highest enrollment in the state — almost twice Missoula Sentinel’s. Billings Senior has the second highest enrollment. You guys down in Billings ever build a fourth high school and we’ll see who wins what.

  13. goof houlihan

    liberals raise good soccer weenies tho

  14. Big Swede

    The problem we’d love to build another school, but Billings Central Catholic High steals all our talent. Besides isn’t Bozeman just as big?

  15. petetalbot

    Bozeman has the third largest enrollment. But then, that’s Bobcat Country, so you can’t expect too many wins.

  16. Matthew Koehler

    “I’ve been told it’s because liberal families make for poor football players.”

    Good one JC! But as you know, there are more than a few “Jocks (and jockettes) in Disguise” out there in the liberal community. Don’t let the long-hair (on our heads or under our arms) fool you! Before becoming an “eco-terrorist” I was an all-conference quarterback, point guard and even an all-state golfer! What? A golfer? ;-)

    But I got “fixed” about 8 years ago, so I guess my wife and I will just have to support kids sports with our tax dollars, not with more players. Although my brother and his wife are expected twin boys in April and he was a much better athlete than me anyway and he’d love to leave Milwaukee and move to Missoula. So maybe Missoula’s looking at a state basketball championship in 2024! ;-) OK, back to work…

  17. Tyler Christensen

    Matthew, you are one surprise after another …

  18. edchilders

    I graduated from Missoula County High School in 1965. That was the last year Missoula’s high schools were consolidated in one school. All Juniors & Seniors were at what is now Sentinel High School. MCHS had tremendous sports teams.
    Still, as always, there were more of us dweebs than there were of the Kohler-types.

  19. goof houlihan

    Yeah, there’s always the hippie quarterback. I saw that on “Remember the Titans”.

    There’s a few Bozeman kids who slip and turn to the dark side. I know a few on Grizzly teams. As I frequently tell their parents, the banker, the neighbor down the street, etc, mostly they’re victims of a bad upbringing, history of poor judgments, unduly influenced by ne’er do well peers.

    Generally, football aside, I’d guess the Hawks routinely kick every Missoula school’s butt in sports.

    Speech and debate, too.

  20. Tate Jones

    It would be great if park proponents would actually talk and listen to the historical agencies impacted by this proposal – the Rocky Mtn. Museum of Military History and the Northern Rockies Heritage Center – I am director of the first, president of the second – use the road across the parkland for critical access. This last round has not been encouraging. The Parks Dept. and their consultant misrepresented us after a highly ambiguous 2006 meeting, and we did not hear of this latest move until two weeks ago when I got a telephone push-poll call.

    We are not opposed to proper recreational development at the Fort, but since we have been their for years previous, we think some deference is due our interests. Two days ago I offered by email to meet with the groups engaged with the park proposal – well, our lines our open.

  21. edchilders

    No worries on the Fort Missoula Park levy; Council won’t schedule a public hearing; no public hearing, no chance that the City Council will put it on a ballot. I’m still getting e-mails from proponents, though.
    We will always have those lovely amphitheaters/holes in the ground. My wife suggests they will substitute nicely for a Performing Arts Center.
    For some reason, even though there’s not enough Council support for developing the park, it looks like there’s enough support to spend 90,000 dollars (already included in this year’s budget) for park design and engineering. That way we’ll have something on the shelf in case some other, more palatable funding source becomes available.

  22. Ahh.. your wife is not a fan of the PAC? Her and I should have gotten together before your vote on that one! :-)

    Looks like that is dead, though.

    My thoughts on that $90,000 – now, I guess, post-monday hearing – is that perhaps it’s not a good idea. Costs change so much, if that money is spent, the city needs to have specifics for how much man hours, machine hours, cubic yards of fill brought in, cubic yards moved…so that when that plan gets pulled off the shelf, it can be easily reworked for the present costs.

    Further – given that the levy hearing went off the agenda based on what many viewed as the need for the County to be on board also, and to have county residents as part of the levy district, one reason to wait on that $90,000 would be to have them bucking up for some of that cash. I guess, though, that you could always get them to pay the city their share in the future, right? :-)

    Given Tate Jones’ comments, before the city goes spending any cash – even that $90,000 – there clearly needs to be buy-in from several parties, and that obviously isn’t there.

    It also illustrates the perils of believing what someone says someone else said. Misrepresenting the Rocky Mtn. Museum of Military History and the Northern Rockies Heritage Center’s buy-in is troublesome to hear.

    A push-poll even more so. But perhaps, at least with regards to the push-poll, someone from the Friends of the Fort Missoula Regional Park can clarify and provide someone with a copy of the questions.

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