Missoula County voters will find a $42 million general obligation bond on November’s general election ballot.
The bond would put $38 million toward the creation of Fort Missoula Regional Park, $3 million to expand and maintain a county trails program, and $1 million to upgrade and replace aging equipment in dozens of Missoula city parks and playgrounds.
The Missoula County commissioners voted to place the measure on the upcoming ballot after a Wednesday night public hearing.
Commissioner Michele Landquist said she feels there is overwhelming public support to let the voters decide on the parks and trails bond.
“My reasoning for voting for it is so many people worked on it for so many years,” she said. “There has been a lot of citizen input on the economic benefits it would bring to the community. This is a plan that has been on the shelf for many years. It certainly has widespread public support throughout the county, not just the city. The benefits of this will be felt for many generations to come.”
Landquist said that she heard concerns from a few citizens at Wednesday’s meeting.
“The No. 1 concern is what it does to the individual household’s pocketbook,” she said. “But the dollars will be really well-spent. And it will be spread out equally among all the citizens of the county, not just city residents. There is really little cost for how much benefit we would see. The benefits certainly outweigh the costs. We were able to put their concerns at ease, or at least give them more information to base their opinion on.”
The proposed bond would add $36.76 per year to the tax bill of a property appraised at $200,000. However, maintenance costs for the Fort Missoula Regional Park would total an estimated $355,000 per year more than the total revenues that the park would bring in, so the city and county would have to come up with that money if the bond is approved.
The park, which would become operational in 2016 or later, would feature:
- A concession and restroom area.
- Picnic shelters.
- Five-field lighted softball complex with fences that could be moved.
- Two separate softball fields.
- Nine full-size multi-use fields for soccer, football, lacrosse and rugby.
- One lighted artificial turf multi-use field.
- Walking trails.
- Dog parks for different-sized dogs.
- Open space.
- Historic interpretation areas.
- Pickleball courts.
- Basketball courts.
- Volleyball courts
- Other amenities.
Part of the park would be on city-owned land and part would be on county-owned land.
Landquist said she heard positive comments supporting the park from a wide coalition of citizens.
“I have heard from representatives from various groups representing soccer, baseball, softball and health professionals that talked about the benefits and how the parks will be enhanced,” she said. “Neighborhoods will have access to parks locally close by. And people realize this is more than just money for Fort Missoula. The monies will get spread to other park areas as well as other areas in the county.”
Landquist said that the park will bring in large sports tournaments that would otherwise be held in other cities in Montana.
“There are so many benefits it will bring to so many user groups,” she explained. “We will be able to hold regional tournaments here instead of people traveling out of town. We’re not capable of having soccer and baseball and softball tournaments. With these plans we will be able to. That will bring people here and certainly benefit the area economically. Individuals and teams spend money in other communities when they go to tournaments.”
Friends of Fort Missoula Regional Park, an advocacy group, estimates that an average Missoula youth soccer team spends $10,000 per out-of-town tournament.
Landquist said the proposals for Fort Missoula Regional Park will make it far superior to other sports complexes in other Montana cities.
“People love going to Missoula and this will give more people an opportunity to enjoy what we have to offer,” she said.
Election Day this year falls on Tuesday, Nov. 4.
For more information on Fort Missoula Regional Park, visit ci.missoula.mt.us/179/Fort-Missoula-Regional-Park.