On Tuesday, Missoula County residents are invited to Hellgate Elementary School  for an open house to hosted by Missoula Parks and Recreation and Missoula County Parks, trails and Open Lands.

Elizabeth Erickson, Open Space acquisitions attorney with the City of Missoula said the meeting is to help plan for the next decade of open space planning.

“We’re excited to hear from the public about priorities for open space conservation in Missoula, Erickson began. “The last open space planning process took place in 2006, and a lot has happened since then. The city and county have completed lots of projects protecting open space lands and now we’re looking ahead to the next decade.”

Erickson described the main goals of the first open space bond.

“In 2006, Missoula County voters overwhelmingly passed the $10 million open space bond, and that money was split between the city and the county,” she said. “The main focus was for scenic views and vistas, agricultural land, wildlife habitat, protecting residential and commuter trails, and providing access to rivers, lakes and streams.”

Asked about the increasingly difficult task of finding affordable housing, especially for low income individuals and families, and the emphasis on acquiring open space that makes all other lands that much less affordable, Erickson maintained the public’s priority on open space.

“As with all amenities that a community holds near and dear, they have to be balanced, and striking that balance is important,” she said. “The physical and mental health benefits of open space are numerous,” she said. “Numerous open space lands help promote economic development, there are so many reasons to have open space as a priority. Affordability is also a priority, and those two efforts are not mutually exclusive.”

The meeting is Tuesday, February 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Hellgate Elementary School at 2835 Flynn Lane, building number three.