Screenshot of app
Missoula County

Have you heard of the Lolo Riverside Park Trail? Do you know how to get to the A.J. Hoyt Memorial Trail in Frenchtown?

The answers to these questions and directions to more public recreation areas can be found by using a new online mapping tool recently launched by the Missoula County Parks, Trails and Open Lands Program.

The image-rich application works on both desktop and mobile devices. Essentially for the first time ever, an online map presents the county’s entire database on public recreation sites and trails in one easy-to-use feature, giving outdoor enthusiasts a much better option when looking for new or nearby options.

The map can be found online at gis.missoulacounty.us/CAPS/ParksAndTrails/.

“The County Parks, Trails & Open Lands Program mission is to provide places where people can recreate throughout Missoula County,” said Parks and Trails program manager Lisa Moisey. “This map will make it that much easier for Missoula County residents or visitors to locate nearby parks and trails. Users can also learn about how conservation easements – established with funding from the 2006 Open Space Bond – have been used to conserve working lands, protect water quality and wildlife habitat, and provide open space and scenic landscapes.”

The map shows trail distances, trailhead locations and even gives recommendations on how moderate or strenuous the hike is. It lists bathroom and parking facilities as well. A whole host of parks, from Lakeside Park to Canyon View Park to Bugbee Nature Area, are listed as well. The county’s open space is shown, along with an overlay of where it meets private property.

The tool was developed because county staff determined that additional efforts were needed to showcase county-owned and managed recreation sites. Before, maps weren’t updated frequently with new projects and were only available if you downloaded a large file.

“Once we were able to compile this data, we were further motivated to share it with the public,” said Parks and Trails coordinator John Stegmaier. “An online map seemed like the best format for presenting this data in one platform.”

An intern from the University of Montana helped by tackling the data management and content entry, and county GIS staff members Nate Rogers and Mike Snook then took the data and worked through the technical implementation challenges without hiring outside consultants. Stegmaier said they got the idea to use a product called Story Maps from Aaron Wilson, a planner at the Missoula Metropolitan Planning Office.

“He has extensive experience in designing similar efforts and knew that we could develop this application with our existing GIS software license,” Stegmaier said. “After taking the time to enter content and with the assistance of the county’s GIS staff, we were able to create this amazing map.”

So, if you want to find the Quebec Deschamps open space, a 1,036-acre parcel put into a conservation easement by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in 2010 that protects wildlife habitat, water quality and scenic landscapes, now you know where to go.

“This is great demonstration of what local partnerships can build,” Stegmaier said. “We are thrilled with the product and are fortunate to have worked with industry experts to deliver this application to the public.”

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