Montana Rail Link Park


Help plan the MRL Park playground! Respond by 3/12/18

The City is in the process of selecting playground equipment for MRL Park to be installed as the park is developed. Park planners would like to know what features neighborhood families would like to see in the new playground. Please take a few minutes to complete a brief Playground Visioning Questionnaire to help design a playground that meets the needs of the neighborhood. Responses will be accepted through Monday, March 12. Click on the site plan above to see more conceptual drawings of the new park.

Draft MRL Park master plan under review

Missoula Parks and Recreation has developed a draft master plan for the new Montana Rail Link Park, a new 4.5-acre park planned for the corner of South Av. and Johnson St. The plan was presented at a November, 2017 neighborhood meeting, and public comment was accepted on the plan through Nov. 30. Parks staff will incorporate public comments into the draft plan and the plan will be reviewed by Parks and Recreation Board in the coming months. 

The park design is based on input gathered at an August, 2017 public design workshop where neighborhood residents participated in group activities to share their vision of the park. Workshop participants identified flexible open space, safety and accessibility as main values and interests. Residents ranked a playground, picnic shelter, restroom, large open lawn, off-leash dog area, community gardens and a multi-use sports court as high-priority amenities for the new park.

Based on public input and guidance from Franklin To The Fort and Southgate Triangle neighborhood leadership teams, City staff designed the current concept plan for MRL Park. The draft master plan incorporates the neighborhood’s stated priorities, including a playground, picnic shelter, off-leash dog area, community gardens, large open turf area and numerous trees. A master park plan is a comprehensive, community vision for park which guides park future development.

Staff presentation and  plan overview

Draft master park plan

Project Funding and Future Steps

Earlier this year, the City acquired a 12-acre parcel at Johnson and South through a partnership with Montana Rail Link for $2 million, a price substantially below market value. The purchase was funded by 1995 Open Space Bond funds for the 4.5-acre park and urban renewal district funding through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency for the remainder of the parcel.

The sale and donation by Montana Rail Link of the 12 acres will allow the City to fill in the last missing link in the Bitterroot Trail between downtown Missoula and Hamilton, and build a park at the junction of two neighborhoods that have a shortage of open space and parks. In addition, the railroad has agreed to support a bicycle-pedestrian railroad crossing at Central Avenue, adjacent to the new park, supporting citizen goals for active transportation, connectivity, access and parkland service.

Development of MRA Park is funded primarily by Tax Increment Financing (TIF) through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency. Projects financed with TIF funds do not affect property taxes and aren't paid for by the City's general fund. TIF is a redevelopment tool that allows cities, through the creation of special districts (urban renewal districts), to make public improvements within those districts that improve the quality of life and generate private-sector investment. 

At the creation of an urban renewal district, the tax base is “frozen” at the pre-district level. Property taxes continue to be paid at the base level, but taxes derived from increases in assessed values in that district (the tax increment) resulting from new development are reinvested in the district to leverage future growth.  For more information about TIF, please contact Annette Marchesseault, MRA Project Manager/Redevelopment Specialist,

Parks construction will also be partially funded by City impact fees and a wood-waste reclamation grant from the Montana DNRC.

For more information on the park and trail projects, please contact Patrick McGannon, Parks and Trails Design /Development Coordinator, 552-6261. Please see Related Documents below.

August 1, 2017 Park Design Workshop

About 40 neighborhood residents joined City staff and Montana Rail Link at a Park Design Workshop in August, 2017 to help design the new park. The facilitated workshop was hosted by Missoula Parks and Recreation, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and Montana Rail Link.

The workshop allowed residents of the Franklin to the Fort and Southgate Triangle neighborhoods to share their long-range vision for the new park to create a master park plan. A master park plan guides future park development as funding becomes available.

August, 2017 Design Workshop presentation

Please see Design Workshop Project Overview and related documents below.

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