Missoula and the $1.85 Million Dollar Marshall Mountain
Marshall Mountain has been an iconic part of Missoula over the decades, with night skiing, gondola rides, mountain bike races and lots of wedding receptions.
Now, thanks to some very generous benefactors, Missoula city and county may have the opportunity to take ownership of Marshall Mountain, if all goes according to plan, and if nearly $2 million can be raised.
Missoula Mayor John Engen, County Commissioner Josh Slotnick, Whitney Schwab of the Five Valleys Land Trust and Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gauckler appeared at Marshall Mountain with the new owners Rika Wishcamper, Pam Volkman and Sandy Volkman and their dog Izzy, representing Izzy Dog, LLC.
Engen spoke first stating his desire over the years to find a way for the city to purchase the mountain.
“They recognize too that we hadn't put a fundraising plan in place,” said Engen. “We hadn't identified a way to purchase this outright for the community ourselves. So they stepped in, they've taken ownership of the property and they’ll hold it for two years while we work with our partners, and there are many in this community, to put together a package to buy them out.”
Commissioner Slotnick echoed Engen’s sentiments about the importance of attempting to place the mountain in public hands.
“So, for anybody who's been here for a few decades, they would recognize that the lifeblood, I believe, of the Missoula community comes in two strong currents. One of them is a vibrant local culture and the other one is easy access to beautiful public land and water, displaces both of those things.”
One of the new owners, Rika Wishcamper, was of one mind with Engen and Slotnick on finding a way to put the area in public hands.
“Our intent as owners is to allow Marshall Mountain to remain the truly unique and special recreational resource that it is,” said Ms. Wishkamper. “We intend to further explore recreational opportunities through a mindful planning process with the city and their partners, the county, Five Valleys Land Trust, the Forest Service and the public in order for Marshall Mountain to realize its fullest potential for our beloved Missoula community.”
Gauckler, who recalled her many years of experience running summer camps on the mountain, shared her enthusiasm for the potential public and private partnership.
“One of my dreams for this place is that it's truly fully accessible and inclusive,” said Gauckler. “We have the opportunity as a group of residents in Missoula city and county to make sure that we have universally accessible trails; that people can bird here, picnic, enjoy special moments, as Josh referred to such as graduations, weddings and reunions. I remember a day when there were concerts here, and yes, winter time fun, too.”
A press release from Missoula Parks and Recreation stated:
‘The City of Missoula will lease the approximate 160-acre Base Area Property from Izzy Dog, LLC for the next 18 to 24 months for $10.00, with an option to purchase the property at the end of that term. After securing the area and mitigating potential safety hazards, Parks and Recreation will open the property to the public for self-initiated, day-use recreation in early August 2021, date to be announced.
At the end of the lease period, the City of Missoula will have the option to purchase the Marshall Mountain Base Area Property for $1,850,000. The acquisition will be subject to the standard City open space acquisition processes, including an extensive public process with multiple opportunities for citizen engagement, culminating with a City Council vote. Potential funding sources will include but are not limited to the 2018 City-County Open Space bond, grants, and public/private partnerships.
In addition, a community celebration is scheduled for September 12, 2021, from 1-4 p.m. Residents will have the opportunity to tour the site and learn how to become involved with the planning for the future Marshall Mountain Recreation Area.
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