The University of Montana continues to mislead and refuses to engage in “open” dialogue regarding its proposal to build the Missoula College on the UM Golf Course.
UM stated that it could not build at Fort Missoula because the land is in a floodplain and is within the Fort Missoula Historic district. When these claims were proven to be false, UM turned the issue into golf versus education. This issue is not just about golf.
UM recently held an open house at the golf course, promising “open dialogue.” Hundreds of people crammed into a facility designed to hold less than 100 and then only UM officials were given the opportunity to talk. There was no open dialogue. This was simply an attempt by UM to claim that they had held an open meeting when in fact there was nothing open about it.
I am a 1985 UM graduate. I am in favor of a new Missoula College, but not at the South Campus location. There is a better alternative. UM owns 50 acres near Fort Missoula. Thirteen of those acres are where the heavy equipment program currently exists. The adjacent 37 acres is the perfect location to consolidate the two-year programs instead of building a third campus. According to the 2004 Master Plan, these 50 acres are not in a floodplain and are exempt from the Fort Missoula Historic Overlay District.
If the Missoula College is built on the South Campus, golfers, cross-country runners, hikers, hang gliders, cross-country skiers, wildlife, the neighborhood and the community will be negatively impacted.
There has been no planning regarding the impact of putting another 2,500 people in this neighborhood surrounded by residential homes. The plans for the South Campus do not contain sufficient parking and the neighborhood streets are inadequate to handle this much traffic. The infrastructure modifications needed would cost millions of dollars. Additional traffic to the South Campus would result in a permanent traffic gridlock.
The Alumni Challenge Athletic Field Corporation made the purchase of the south campus land in the 1940s. The minutes from the January 7, 1947 UM Central Board meeting clearly state that buildings were not the intent of those who originally sold and purchased this land. The purchase was made with the understanding that the president of the university would commit to “use the property for intramural sports and athletic program, adjunct to the recreational and athletic facilities provided at the golf course.”
To pave a large tract of recreational open space in a community where open space holds such high esteem is wrong. To quote a recent letter to the Missoulian, “after passing a $10 Million open space bond in 2006, paving the UM Golf Course would be an unjustifiable environmental tragedy for our community.”
Several cross-country races are held on this land each year, including a regional cross-country race that brings over 2,000 participants to our community. This event has a huge economic impact. The participants stay in motels and eat at restaurants and purchase goods from our merchants. If this land is developed, there will be no more cross-country meets and hang gliding off of Mount Sentinel will no longer happen either because the hang gliders will have no place to land.
Since the UM administration refuses to engage in open dialogue, our only alternative is to contact our legislators and ask them to refuse funding of the new Missoula College if it is to be built on the South Campus. The following is a link to all Montana legislative candidates and their contact information from the Montana Secretary of State website: www.app.mt.gov/cgi-bin/filing/index.cgi? ACTIONLIST_LEG&GENERAL1.
I encourage you to get involved. Come to a public meeting on Nov. 5 or 8. Go to www.saveopen.info for more details.
Keith Koprivica of Missoula is a University of Montana graduate and Missoula resident for over 30 years.