In 2017, the City acquired a 12-acre parcel at the intersection of Johnson St. and South Avenue from Montana Rail Link for $2 million, a price substantially below market value, using 1995 Open Space Bond funds for the park and trail connection, and urban renewal district funds through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency for the remainder of the parcel.
This project adds an approximately 4.5 acre neighborhood park in the Franklin to Fort and Southgate Triangle neighborhoods and provides the missing connection in the Bitterroot Trail from downtown Missoula to Hamilton.
Population growth and other development in the Franklin to Fort and Southgate Triangle neighborhoods has proceeded without the addition of sufficient parkland as recommended by the 2004 Master Parks and Recreation Plan. The recommendation is 2.5 acres of neighborhood parkland for every 1000 residents. The Franklin to Fort Neighborhood is disproportionately deficient in acres of parkland, relative to other areas of Missoula. This project adds approximately 4.5 acres of parkland in that area.
The Bitterroot trail is a 50-mile bicycle/pedestrian path from Missoula to Hamilton. This project closes a four-block gap in the Bitterroot Trail along Johnson Street. With the completion of the bicycle/pedestrian bridge across South Reserve Street, this connection becomes even more essential. Missoula’s Active Transportation plans highlight the Bitterroot Trail as a primary commuter route and depict additional connections extending the Milwaukee Railroad Trail to the east and west, and potentially other trail connections to the north extending into the Blackfoot Valley, the Jocko Valley and beyond.
The acquisition was discussed in several 2016 public meetings, including OSAC, City Council’s Parks and Conservation Committee, and the City Council regular meeting.
Construction on the park and trail connection began in 2017. The Bitterroot Trail connection was completed in July 2018. MRL Park’s grand opening is slated for Spring, 2019.
Total acquisition cost: $2 million. Trail Connection and Park: Funded by 1995 Open Space Bond funds, $390,000
Reminder of 12-acre parcel: Urban renewal district funds through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency