The pieces are falling into place for a recreation trail beyond the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers.

On Wednesday, the Missoula City Council's Conservation Committee gave its OK to helping buy a 65-acre parcel just west of the former Milltown Dam. The land is a crucial link in the route along the base of Mount Sentinel from the University of Montana campus to beyond Milltown.

"Getting the land is key," said Missoula open space program manager Jackie Corday. "It's just a matter of time to get the money for the trail, but at least you've got a place to put it."

Five Valleys Land Trust bought the land from the Randy Jacobs family last December. It runs along the railroad tracks between Deer Creek Road and an old train tunnel through a bluff overlooking the now-removed dam. Once restoration work is completed on the floodplain east of the dam site, the trail will pass through the tunnel along the Clark Fork's south bank to Bonner Junction and possibly farther. It will also connect with the Two Rivers State Park surrounding the confluence.

At the time, FVLT director Grant Kier said the parcel was obviously in the public interest.

"We have been aware completing the Kim Williams has been a high priority for a while with the city," Kier said in December. "And when we saw the state park was a done deal, we decided to take the opportunity."

The Jacob family sold the land to FVLT for $250,000, which was $50,000 off the appraised price. The land trust is selling 35 acres that aren't needed for the trail to the Deer Creek Shooting Range, which may use it for a new clubhouse.

The Missoula County open space bond account will provide $80,000 for the remainder, along with $73,000 from a federal Recreational Trails Program grant administered by the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and $15,000 from FVLT member donations.

Meanwhile, Corday said the city is close to connecting the current eastern end of the Kim Williams Trail with a new path following the river around Bandmann Flats. It is also negotiating with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad for a trail easement along the base of Mount Sentinel between that Kim Williams terminus and the Jacobs property.

And FWP recently received a $200,000 grant for design and engineering work on a future bridge connecting the state park's Bonner features on the north bank with the trails on the south bank.

The full City Council has set a public hearing for the open space bond expense on May 23.

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

 

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