A public survey of the future of Marshall Mountain shows that mountain biking, hiking and running, cross-country skiing, Nordic skiing and public events are top priorities for Missoul residents.
The city recently released the results of a survey of 1,300 respondents, including 50 pages of public comment on what they would like to see at the property. Additionally, there were 93 participants in the stakeholder meetings.
The nearly 160-acre lot was purchased last year by a small group, Izzy Dog LLC, with plans to sell it to the city. This transaction likely won’t happen for some time, as a public purchase approval process must be completed before the land is officially in city hands.
It is currently leased by Missoula to Izzy Dog and is open to the public.
“I think the idea of doing this was to try to figure out these overall goals for the property, to try to hear what Missoula thinks Marshall Mountain could or should be for residents here and visitors,” said said Nathan McLeod, Parks & Trails. design/development specialist. “We had a lot of people who were involved in this process.”
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Parks staff were blown away by the number of responses, McLeod said.
In the high to mid-mountain area, respondents said they would like to see passive/open recreation areas, followed by a high-mountain hut, backcountry campsites, and a drag lift or ski lift. a ski lift. There is an elevator on site, but no one seems to know if it works and if not how much it would cost to fix it.
Basically, respondents said that a cycling skills park, an outdoor pavilion, a snow slide/tube slide area, a beginner ski area and an outdoor stage were the top five things respondents most wanted to see.
When it comes to trails, respondents said they would like to see dedicated mountain bike trails, beginner and intermediate bike trails, easier access to rock climbing trails, and areas designated for off-road skiing. track.
There was some support for the dogs in the area, but many public comments expressed concern about the dogs, especially their droppings.
Almost all respondents expressed a preference for human-powered mountaintop access over an elevator. A question was also asked about e-bikes, which were not popular in the survey.
The US Forest Service does not allow e-bikes on its trails, but could potentially be something the city could pursue if it chooses.
“We started asking those kinds of questions and one thing we found with e-bikes is that by far the majority of people don’t want them at Marshall,” McLeod said. “It’s an example of how (this survey) will help us in the overall planning process, because we asked those kinds of questions early on.”
Many people said they would be willing to purchase a user pass, and others also said events and program fees should be used to recover some operational costs.
Most respondents to the survey were between 25 and 44 years old. A question was also asked whether respondents were affiliated with a program or service offered by a number of groups.
Over 500 respondents said they are part of Mountain Bike Missoula. More than 400 respondents said they had been part of Missoula Parks and Rec programs and nearly 350 said they were involved in some way with Five Valleys Land Trust.
Marshall Mountain has been a somewhat controversial project since its inception. A lawsuit, filed by a Missouri doctor, seeks a trial over an issue related to a buy-sell agreement with the former owner of the Marshall Mountain property.
Ownership will not change hands due to the lawsuit.
However, there is strong community support, at least among mountain bike groups and other recreational groups involved in the project. It’s unclear how the property will be paid for, but Missoula County is involved in the process, as are some nonprofit groups.
McLeod does not expect the Marshall Mountain property to be purchased and developed entirely with taxpayer dollars, he said. One group, Friends of Marshall Mountain, begins a fundraising process.
The next step for the city is to enter into a planning agreement with a company to develop plans for the site. This will include a detailed financial analysis and an operational business plan, McLeod said.
This planning process should last all summer.
“There are a lot of different potential ways. It could be operated from the perspective of where it’s entirely Parks and Recreation or the City of Missoula operating it, it could also be a hybrid where there’s has non-profit organizations.
“These are very broad questions at this point that we hope to get some clarification on as we move forward.”
Jordan Hansen would like to thank the western Montana community for embracing him and letting him tell their stories over the past five years as his stay in Missoula ends this week. He has a lot of people he would like to express his appreciation too, but first and foremost his friend and dedicated reader Chris. As always, shout out to Jordan on Twitter @jordyhansen.