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Popular Missoula trailhead set for $677K in improvements, parking

open space valliant erickson
Posted at 1:21 PM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 15:21:20-04

MISSOULA — The busiest trail in Missoula, and perhaps one of the most scenic, moved one step closer this week to major improvements, which could begin as early as next spring.

Members of the Missoula City Council’s Parks and Conservation Committee unanimously approved the $677,000 bid package to JAG Grading and Paving for construction services related to Waterworks Hill.

The project includes a new road to the trailhead, a 40-car paved parking lot, drainage, and a universally accessible trail stretching for one-half mile to a historic city overlook.

“The viewpoint is where a lot of the old archival photos of Missoula were taken,” said Neil Miner, the city’s parks and trails development manager. “The photo of Greenough Mansion or I-90 being build across Missoula, all these photos were taken from this aspect. It’s 360-degree views.”

The area receives heavy use and currently lacks a proper road or parking lot. Cars park up and down the gravel road and, on busy days, it can be hard to navigate. The trail itself goes straight up the hillside, causing issues with erosion.

Accessibility is nearly impossible for some users.

“This is a trailhead that’s incredibly under-parked,” said council member Heidi West. “It’s so highly used and it’s a mess at the trailhead. I’m excited for this to be something that’s easier to use and easier to access.”

The $677,000 cost will come from a variety of funding sources, including $388,000 from the state fuel tax. Around $170,000 stems from the 2018 Open Space Bond, $50,000 from a recreational trails grant, and $125,000 from park impact fees.

A $65,000 contribution from the former Mountain Water Co. is also included.

“As long as I’ve been here there’s been a negotiation with Mountain Water at the time to exchange land for a water tank on the Mt. Jumbo saddle for a parking lot on this property,” Miner said. “It’s had starts and stops. It’s always been consistent that they would help us build a trail, and this is what was negotiated.”