Fund drive starts for new Skalkaho Bend Park

Posted at 7:26 AM, May 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-02 13:12:53-04

HAMILTON – They’ve already raised most of the money. Now, the Bitter Root Land Trust is giving the community a chance to chip in to finish setting aside a remarkable tract of land south of Hamilton.

The Bitter Root Land Trust has been working on the purchase — and plans for the 70-acre tract along the Bitterroot River southwest of Hamilton — for more than a year.

Now, they’re unveiling the name of the new park — Skalkaho Bend Park — and launching a “create the park” fundraising campaign,

“What we’re hoping for right now is to raise that last little bit of money that’s it’s going to take from the community to be able to create this beautiful amenity and make sure that we’ve got a 70-acre park with a mile of river access for the community forever,” Bitter Root Land Trust Executive Director Gavin Ricklefs said.

There’s a “giving tree” set up in the Land Trust Office in downtown Hamilton to mark the progress of the campaign. Ricklefs says the generosity from the backers of the project has already been amazing and the majority of funds to complete the purchase and set aside is already in place.

“We’ve had so many people come forward already to help support making this park a reality. So now we’re real close. We’ve raised a little over $700,000. We’re about $30,000 away and really at the point where we’re asking the community to come help support the park, create their path. Create the park,” Ricklefs told MTN News.

Skalkaho Bend Park
The site of the proposed Skalkaho Bend Park southwest of Hamilton. (MTN News photo)

With the fundraising campaign getting underway Bitter Root Land Trust will continue planning for this property. But they say the main focus is going to be on preserving this special place for future generations.

The property includes about six acres of uplands, with a broad swath of riparian area along the eastern bank of the river, and across the water to about the halfway point of the channel.

The Trust says there are no plans for a developed park, with gravel parking and limited trail access. And the non-profit is working with surrounding residents to address their concerns.

“We’re talking about a place that is already very important for wildlife, has real important ecological functions along the river and the goal is to ensure it stays that way,” Ricklefs said.

“This is a place for wildlife. It’s their home. It’s also going to be a place where people can come and enjoy it as well, and get connected to nature,” he added.

If all goes according to plan, Skalkaho Bend could be complete later this year.

“The best way to help make this park possible soon is, number one, to exercise a little bit of patience with us as we get the park ready to transfer to the City of Hamilton,” Ricklefs said. “It’s not quite ready yet, and it will be, we hope this fall. The second thing is to help by making a contribution to make it possible.”

The Bitter Root Land Trust will be scheduling some public events later this month to explain the fundraising campaign and showcase what’s planned at Skalkaho Bend.

Click here to view the upcoming campaigns to support the creation of Skalkaho Bend Park.