August 13, 2007

Does a state park lie in the future of the restored confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers? That’s the question being explored this summer as members of the Milltown Redevelopment Working Group begin a community planning process that looks ahead to what will happen at the site once the cleanup and restoration work is finished.

Convened by the Missoula County Commissioners in 2003, the Working Group, made up of local residents and river stakeholders, developed a conceptual plan (PDF, 8MB) that calls for the creation of a public park at the restored confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers. The plan, approved by Missoula County Commissioners in 2005, imagines a park with trails, river access points and possibly an interpretive center.

And while the Milltown park idea is popular conceptually, it raises a number of issues. What kind of park will it be? How do you offer a quality river experience without it being loved to death? How do you minimize the nuisance factor for the neighboring communities, all the while ensuring ample recovery for the confluence and its fisheries, riparian vegetation and wildlife habitat?

These are just a few of the questions and challenges that lie ahead. The key is to plan for it now, with full community participation.

This summer working group members will be soliciting ideas and concerns from area residents and the general public. Two public meetings, set for Sept. 6 and Sept. 12 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Bonner School, will help gather community ideas. These meetings will be followed by an intensive, two-day park design workshop on Sept. 20-21 and additional public presentations.

For more information on park planning efforts at Milltown, call Gary Matson at 370- 6584 or CFRTAC at 541-8099.

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