MISSOULA — When the City of Missoula was presented with the opportunity to lease the old Marshall Mountain Ski area outside Missoula, it took it. But then came the question: what to do with it?
This Sunday, the public is invited to a community celebration and brainstorming session at Marshall Mountain Park.
When the new owners bought the old ski area earlier this summer, they opted to lease this land to the city of Missoula for $10d a year, giving the city a chance to explore options -- including buying the land itself.
“Right now, we've been given an opportunity. We have a lease with an option to buy in the next 18 to 24 months," explained Missoula Ecosystems Services Superintendent Morgan Valliant.
"As we move towards securing acquisition we also want to move forward with community planning to create the vision for what could be built here at Marshall Mountain,”
This Sunday, a chance for the public to weigh in on the future of Marshall Mountain Park -- a community celebration dubbed the official start of a community planning process.
“Our real goal is to make this a forerunner in accessible recreation for our entire community. That is a really big piece of it. So, this has a large historic use of skiers and mountain bikers but we want to give access to every member of our community through some different broad-based community pursuits and different avenues and get as many people out here as possible starting on Sunday.” - Recreational Program Manager Meg Whicher
The city eventually wants to buy the land mostly through public and private partnerships and private donations along with some funding from the 2018 City/County open space bonds.
A recent survey found more than 70% of those surveyed supported public ownership of the former ski area and now the public gets to have a say in how this area can best serve us.
“One thing we do not have within the sweep of open space lands within the city of Missoula is an area that can handle higher intensity recreation, purpose-built trails, large events that kind of stuff,” Valliant said.
“And so that is certainly a niche that Marshall could fill. Part of our community planning process is to develop where on that spectrum we are going to land.”
Organizers have also reached out to the nearby communities of Bonner and East Missoula about the benefits Marshall Mountain Park could bring to their towns and encourage their participation.
This Sunday’s event is free and includes a band and food, family games, even a bike race and a chance to share your memories of Marshall Mountain. It runs from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday. Parking will be tight so carpool if you can or use the shuttle.
The event shuttle is at the UM MonTECH parking lot at 1121 E. Broadway. Shuttles running to Marshall and back are every 30 minutes starting at 12:30 p.m. with the last shuttle leaving Marshall Mountain at 4:30 p.m.