Kolendich-Grove Street

This Google Maps screen grab shows the proposed Kolendich-Grove Street open space acquisition, at the gray arrow, where it connects with the Clouse property west of Reserve Street. 

A third-generation Missoulian wants to sell a piece of land to the city as open space, connecting the Milwaukee Trail with over a hundred acres of city, county and state conservation lands on the west end of Missoula.

Frank Kolendich told Missoula City Council’s Parks and Conservation Committee Wednesday his grandparents, who bought the land almost 100 years ago, worked a vegetable farm on the property, selling fresh produce to most of Missoula back in the day.

Now the small parcel bordering the Clark Fork River is surrounded by housing developments, though the century-old Milwaukee rail line still carves a path through the trees, over a bridge to more city open space.

“Quite frankly, we’re pretty tickled that we get to attach this property together,” Kolendich said of himself and his family. “It’s kind of an honor for us.”

The city’s open space acquisitions attorney, Elizabeth Erickson said it’s that connectivity that makes the property so desirable for the city.

The chance to extend the public’s right-of-way to all those open lands – within a ten-minute bike ride from downtown to boot – is hard to pass up.

“You can really see just how this property in a larger context provides this incredible opportunity,” she said.

The three-acre parcel is a sort-of flag shape, with a long, thin section connecting the Milwaukee line with the existing trail east of Grove Street and a larger section that expands out near the riverbank.

Another part of the family’s property, Erickson said, is set to be developed into houses.

The purchase price is set at $225,000, with additional money budgeted for site preparations, bridge assessment and safety hazard abatements, among other things.

That brings the total 2006 open space bond expenditure to $320,000.

Erickson said that leaves the city with a little over $500,000 left in their account.

While the bridge connecting the mainland with the Clark Fork islands is intact, the wide-spaced supports are unfit for pedestrians or bikers, Erickson said.

While an engineering study of the bridge can be done with open space funds, she said they’d have to find money from somewhere else to actually build the trail over it, as well as connect it to the existing Milwaukee Trail.

Ward 6 representative Michelle Cares said this was probably the “most excited” she’s been about an open space purchase during her time on the council, since she lives near the area and often finds herself on walks or jogs coming to a dead end when the trail abruptly stops at Grove Street.

“It’s the closest one to my house, which is how folks usually get excited about these projects,” she said

Ward 4 representative John Dibari had a different reason to be excited. The Clouse conservation area that would be easily accessible via the bridge is a spot where the Clark Fork River historically changes its course during floods, splitting into several winding arms in the area.

“It’s sort of the wild Clark Fork as it were,” he said.

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