MISSOULA — Marshall Mountain may be under new ownership, but it will be closed to public access for a few weeks as the City of Missoula irons out an initial management plan.
However, the city is promising lots of public participation as future plans are drawn up.
It's only been a week since Marshall Mountain sold to new local owners but new signs posted by the City of Missoula might be catching some people off guard.
Missoula Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaulker says it's just an initial step to protect the property and the public.
"We're going to spend the next few weeks making sure we understand assessing the site we want to make sure it's safe for folks and then in early August the exact date to be announced," Gaulker said.
"It will be open for public access so non scheduled just show up, self-initiated come out and play. But we'll let folks know when and they can. Watch Engage Missoula and Missoula Parks and Recreation home webpage and I'm sure we'll also get it out on Facebook."
The word seems to be getting out. Monday morning the parking lot was empty and the former resort was quiet -- but not for long.
During last week's press conference, Gaukler explained the property will be cleaned up for safety, and then work starts right away with the city, county, and user groups developing a long-term plan.
"What are the partnerships like? How do we go about managing it and what will the future be? What are the things that can happen here? Yes, it was a ski place. It's been a wonderful destination for biking," Gaulker noted.
"But a lot of people don't know about the uses that families experience. One of my dreams for this place is that it's truly fully accessible and inclusive," she continued.
She says that means "universal" trail access and camping opportunities for families that don't usually have those options.
There's also an expectation of tremendous need too post-pandemic, another reason the Wishcamper and Volkmann's stepped in to keep Marshall Mountain in local ownership.
"We saw more interest in recreation programs and access to public lands than we've ever seen before. Sometimes that growth was 35%, sometimes it was 50% or more growth," Gaulker said.
Even when Marshall Mountain reopens for public access later this summer, city officials are hoping people will continue to treat this special piece of property with respect.
"So much with a person's experience on a mountain or any recreation area has to do with the way everybody behaves. And I can't say it any simpler than that, is really be respectful," Gaulker observed.
"Think about how others are using the site. Some people are up here for solitude and quiet. Some people are up here...kind of have a rowdy, fun time," she said. "But if we can take care of the place, and if we can take care of each other, we're all going to be better off for it in the long run. We're all in it together."
One of the questions to be addressed in that planning will be how to pay for the public purchase of Marshall Mountain.
The new owners are hoping that can be worked out within the next two years.