LINDA MCCARTHY: Take advantage of Missoula’s trail system

Article from the Missoulian – to read full article click HERE

Before the snow flies this fall, I recommend you get out on your bicycle. Missoula has a wonderful bicycle/pedestrian trail system, and the city of Missoula recently completed a couple of major off-road trail connections that are real enhancements for our community.

Soon you will be able to walk or bike from Target Range west of Reserve Street to the heart of downtown and to the University of Montana without traveling on the roads built for cars. A good portion of the Milwaukee Trail was built on a former railroad bed that traversed east-west through the valley. The new, one-mile segment between Reserve and Russell streets is paved, has good signage and mile markers.

A grand opening for the trail is planned for Oct. 16 and is being hosted by the River Road Neighborhood Council. The Milwaukee Trail connects two significant residential areas – the area west of Reserve Street and the area between Reserve and Russell streets – to the riverfront trail system and provides a wealth of opportunities for recreation and community growth.

Another important connection created this year is the Riverfront Trail extension between Osprey Stadium and the California Street Bridge across Silver Park in the Old Sawmill District. This trail is scheduled for public opening on Oct. 12. The Silver Park Trail not only makes an important connection for commuting and recreation, it also extends the trail lighting along the riverfront. The trail lighting is critical to the success of the system by making commuting in the twilight hours easier and safer. The Silver Park Trail links neighborhoods to the downtown and university along the riverfront and connects the north and south bank trail systems.

As these trails are developed over time, we see pockets of new housing and business developments coming to life that reduce blight, increase property values, create better living conditions, decrease travel time and car congestion, and contribute to the well-being of our community and our residents. Additionally, Missoula residents have better connections and access to the Clark Fork River that runs right through town. Historically, we turned our backs to this amazing body of water, dumping our garbage along the waterfront, using old cars to stabilize its banks, and building warehouses and lumber mills along the river.

Today we continue to develop the riverfront trail system farther to the west. We are connecting areas that were previously inaccessible. We have built public amenities such as Currents Indoor Water Park, Osprey Stadium, Silver Park, a public boat ramp, timber-frame shelters, bicycle/pedestrian bridges, and the soon-to-be-built Max Wave. Additionally, the City Council has authorized the Missoula Redevelopment Agency to complete public acquisition of the island off of West Broadway east of California Street, which will improve waterfront recreation opportunities for all.

In addition to these amenities in the heart of our community, we have acquired additional lands for public recreation. Thanks to the $10 million open space bond approved by Missoula voters in 2006, we are seeing development of the Milwaukee and Grant Creek Trail System. Acreage was added to the Mount Jumbo Open Space in Marshall Canyon and on the east side, which provided additional public access trails to Mount Jumbo, conversation easements have been granted to preserve hundreds of acres in the North Hills and South Hills and of course the development of the Milwaukee Trail.

These amenities contribute significantly to the attractiveness and livability of Missoula and help tourism-promotion entities and economic development organizations attract visitors, investors, new businesses and new jobs to this thriving community in the Rocky Mountain West.

The Missoula Downtown Association greatly appreciates the work that has gone into providing better access to open space, development of trail systems, and development in the core of our community. We give kudos to those individuals and entities who contribute significant time and resources to make these things happen – Mayor John Engen and the city of Missoula, Ellen Buchanan, Chris Behan and the staff at the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, Jackie Corday, Dave Shaw and the staff at Missoula Parks and Recreation, the Open Space Advisory Committee, property owners who donate easements for public access, and businesses like WGM Group and Watson & Associates who contribute to the design and development of these public amenities.

Come see for yourself what great changes are happening to better connect our community. We have a lot to be thankful for, and new places and spaces to enjoy. Take a walk, ride your bike, or maybe get on your cross country skis this winter.

As Olympic gold medalist, swim coach and downtown attorney Dave Berkoff said so eloquently in the fall issue of Missoula magazine, “I love it here. Every time I fly home to Missoula, I feel like I’m going to the best place in the world.”

We agree.