Plans moving forward for new Bitterroot river park

Posted at 3:11 PM, Jan 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-14 18:53:14-05

HAMILTON – Hamilton Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf is pressing forward into 2019 with a number of items on his “to do” list. And that includes helping to develop what could be one of the most remarkable stretches of public park in the Bitterroot Valley.

Last fall, the Bitterroot Land Trust put together details of a major conservation project, using Ravalli County’s Open Lands Bond Program to purchase 70 acres of open space and wet lands along the Bitterroot River on Hamilton’s southwest corner.

This year, the Land Trust, City of Hamilton and Ravalli County will be working to implement a plan for what promises to be an amazing stretch of public land along the river.

“I want to make sure that we have that in our wheelhouse so that we can put that together and really make that a good space for the public,” said Hamilton Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf. “Me personally, I’m really excited about it. Just to have that extension of that park to go that much further down that river.”

That was the message Mayor Farrenkopf delivered to Ravalli County commissioners this morning, as he reviewed joint city-county projects for this year. And opening the park promises to be a major accomplishment for generations to come.

The tract includes both uplands for park access and the potential for trails along a mile of the Bitterroot River, with unparalleled views of Ward Mountain and the rest of the Bitterroot Front, with habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife.

Because this is such a stunning piece of property it’s sure to draw crowds. That has some of the neighbors concerned. But the mayor was confident the city can put in the proper controls to keep everyone happy.

“But there’s some concerns by the landowners, the adjacent landowners,” said Ravalli County Commissioner Jeff Burrows. “And there may be some conditions that we look at helping them sign and alleviate some of that possible trespass issue with that park.”

“We’ve also been working with to get some nice quality trails in there,” Farrenkopfe said. “That trail would encourage people to traverse the park in a good way that would continue to protect and preserve that land. But at the same time make it a good place to recreate.”

In fact, Land Trust staff tell us that’s exactly what they’ll be working on over the next few months, meeting with neighbors and getting public input on everything from the park’s layout to a formal name. The Trust will also be doing fund raising to finish the land acquisition so it can be donated to city, which will then manage it as a park.

Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News