Dozens of city, county, state and business leaders invited the public on a sunny Friday afternoon to the official opening of Missoula's Silver Park.

Assistant Director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, Chris Behan, said the park is a work that was decades in the making.

"This is a celebration for three different projects that have just been completed here, the old sawmill district, once the Champion Mill site," Behan said, standing under a timber structure made from submerged logs that had been recovered from the Clark Fork River. "One is a 15-acre park, Wyoming street, which is a new east-west connector, something we don't have very many of, and third, in order to build the street, we had to redesign and replace the railroad bridge that was originally built in the 1880's."

Behan outlined the costs of the various projects within the park area.

"The grand total, including the clean-up, which was very costly, is about $11 million," Behan said. "The park itself is about $5 million, the road was about $1.8 million. The money came from tax increment financing, which is targeted for a specific area of town for new taxes for a period of time which would be rolled back into that district. so, basically, it's this area paying for this community park."

Behan addressed his vision for the future the the Silver Park area.

"I think we're going to find that over the next several years, that this new neighborhood will build up," he said. "It will show us the best way to create more efficient use of space and transportation for the community."

Assistant Director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, Chris Behan

In his remarks, Mayor John Engen told the crowd that he grew up just blocks from the new park, which was very different when he was a boy.

"I often tell people than this is where I learned to drink Sterno," Engen laughingly said to the crowd, knowing that historically, the area was once a homeless camp. "There has been a big change for all sorts of reasons."

The mayor said that private and public partnerships were responsible for the success of the project.

"Government is a reflection of the community," Engen said. "Government is us working together, and so your local government working with all the local partners that have been mentioned today, decided that this place mattered and was worth the investment, and so we worked together to make it happen."

Mayor John Engen