MILLTOWN – Following the building of the Milltown Dam in 1908 the area has been under constant development following health hazards and flooding.
Now, 110 years later, Milltown State Park opened welcoming visitors and supporters to appreciate history and progress in the making. Montana’s newest state park opened up Saturday after 17 years of hard work with a day full of dedications, storytellers and live music.
The historic site will now be the first public access park in the area since 1926 and the result of state and community collaboration decades in the making has finally come to fruition.
"As you come out and enjoy the river, you look for bull trout, you think about what it took to put this together, how we have come full circle and that we have come full circle again," said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Martha Williams.
The park features more than 625 acres on both sides of the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers, spreading out over 2½ miles on the Clark Fork and 1½ miles along the Blackfoot.
The relatively small acreage promises to be a major attraction once it’s developed and Miltown Park Manager, Mike Kustudia says that the goal is to connect all of these areas.
"You know, the vision, significantly is about trails and river access… so the confluence here has a trail that runs along the Clark Fork and will eventually head up the Blackfoot," Kustudia said.
There’s no boat ramp but there is a river access point just up the road via trails but what Kustudia says is the most important part is preserving the history of what happened in this valley.
"I care a lot about the storytelling. You know, I mentioned that this is a confluence of stories and there’s thousands of human history beginning with a Salish people, in the other tribes and then you know it’s a Lewis and Clark site," Kustudia stated. "here’s just so much history here that maybe a lot of Montanans are not aware about."
"So well it, it’s kind of a hopeful story, for one thing,g is what I love about it, you know there’s so many stories that are about environmental loss and this was a site that you know the rivers were dammed, the groundwater was contaminated, in the fish runs were blocked and… but people recognize that and they came together to make it right," Kustudia added.
The park’s confluence sight opening is the first in many steps to connecting all parts of the land up and down the rivers.