Parks and Recreation has resumed restoration work on Rankin Park, the triangle of land at the south end of the Madison Street Bridge. Work on the park was temporarily halted earlier this year when the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) announced plans to renovate the Madison Street Bridge, and the park was under consideration as a materials staging area for the project. Recently, contractors announced that staging will be contained within the project work zone.
The park, which serves as a memorial to Jeannette Rankin and an entrance to the University Neighborhood, was significantly altered by the 5th/6th/Arthur street enhancement project in 2012. Some park infrastructure, including the irrigation system, was damaged by the project. Neighborhood residents, working with Parks and Recreation, the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center and the University of Montana, created a new master park plan in 2014 which designates portions of the park as a xeriscape demonstration project. Parks and Recreation was implementing the new master plan until work was halted by MDT’s plans for renovation of the Madison Street Bridge last March.
Highlights of the plan currently under construction include beautiful, seasonally changing landscape beds at several locations throughout the park and a 325-foot “Peace Path” with benches and trees. The existing Jeannette Rankin memorial plaque will be relocated to the southern entrance to the landscape beds. Future plans include additional installations to honor Jeannette Rankin’s devotion to peace, justice, and democratic equality. The plan includes ADA-accessible benches and trails, plus plantings that prioritize native, sustainable plant species. Turf grass areas have been designed to conserve water while still providing social spaces and beauty within the park.
The northern end of the park features a dryland grass meadow. This non-irrigated, xeriscape portion of the park doesn’t look like much right now, says Parks and Recreation Conservation Lands Manager Morgan Valliant, but will come into its own in a few seasons as the perennial fescue grasses become established and fill in the area. “We’ve planted about 1500 grass plugs and seeded the area twice, but establishing grasslands by seed without irrigation takes time.” Valliant says. “It will likely take another full growing season before the meadow is fully established. Once grasses have established we may introduce wildflowers,” he adds.
In the coming months, contractors will install curbing for the new paths and a new irrigation system. This fall and next spring, Parks and Recreation will install path surfacing, seed new turf areas, plant new landscape beds and re-install the monument. Phase one of the master park plan is slated to be completed in 2017. Funding for the project includes a $12,000 contribution from Northwestern Energy Co. and contributions from the Parks and Recreation budget.
View the Rankin Park master plan below. A public education campaign about the Madison Street Bridge project is slated to begin in September. The bridge project is tentatively scheduled to begin in November, according to MDT contractors.