To help keep the Clark Fork River from getting over-loved, Missoula’s Three Rivers Collaborative will field “river ambassadors” this summer.
The four ambassadors hit the beach in two weeks. They will cruise trailheads, shoreline access points and shuttle stops helping people find recreation opportunities and take care of the river corridor.
The Clark Fork Coalition will oversee the workers in partnership with Missoula’s city and county governments and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
A recent Missoula Parks and Recreation Department study found more than 65 people per hour floated past the Madison Street Bridge during peak days of July and August. It also found a large number of “social trails” developing where people have dragged their inner tubes and boats up the Clark Fork’s eroding banks. And continuing traffic and parking problems at popular float-trip starting and ending points have been a growing concern.
“With so many people getting out on the river, we’re also seeing more trash, more erosion, more trampled vegetation along the corridor, especially in the core of Downtown,” Clark Fork Coalition Executive Director Karen Knudsen said. “It’s time to take action to reverse course so that we don’t wind up loving the river to death.”
The ambassadors will serve throughout the Missoula Valley at river sites along the Bitterroot and Blackfoot rivers as well as the Clark Fork. The job involves a lot of travel by foot and bike, as well as occasional paddleboard or kayak forays. Ambassadors will help river users find shuttle connections and parking places, offer best-practice advice on protecting river vegetation and managing human waste, and conduct research on river use and environmental impacts.