MISSOULA — The new owners of Marshall Mountain say it's their intent that the former ski resort to "remain the truly unique and special recreational resource" that is for the Missoula community.
Those comments Friday afternoon as the buyers, Missoula leaders, and user groups formally announced the purchase earlier this week, a move on the cusp of the land being sold to an out-of-state buyer, threatening the history of public access.
Rick and Rika Wishcamper, and Sandy and Pam Volkmann, submitted the successful backup offer for the lodge and other buildings, and the trails and slopes that have been used by generations of Missoulians.
The deal between Izzy Dog, LLC, named after the Volkmann's labradoodle, allows the resort to stay in local ownership, while the transfer to public ownership is worked out.
"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," said in a statement to reporters.
"And finally we want to thank and give gratitude to the Doering Family, for their stewardship of Marshall and their generosity over the years," the statement continued.
"So this is a public-minded private transaction that turns into a private transaction to a public entity so that this facility, this mountain, can be maintained in perpetuity for recreation and the community-at-large to enjoy. That's pretty amazing," noted Missoula Mayor John Engen.
Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick said Marshall Mountain represents both the "vibrant local culture" and "easy access to beautiful public land and water".
"We may have seen over the recent past a bit of a risk that since we've become so discovered our beloved homeland here may become a playland for the few. This act of generosity, our partnership, will make sure that this is open for everybody. Forevermore."
The city is emphasizing that public access across the property will remain closed for the next few weeks as the Missoula Parks and Recreation sets up an initial operation plan, with expected re-opening in August.
Marshall Mountain was closed as a ski area in 2003, although it remained a popular destination for backcountry skiers, mountain bike riders, and kids' recreational events.
The site encompasses 156-acres at the head of Marshall Canyon and is surrounded by National Forest lands and conservation easements providing access by the Five Valleys Land Trust.
The owners hope to have Missoula assume public ownership within the next two years.
Missoula won't have to annex the property to have public ownership, since it's within the boundaries of the Open Space program.