Rocky Mountain Gardens & Exploration Center breaks ground in Missoula

A step forward for the Missoula Co. Fairgrounds
Rocky Mountain Gardens & Exploration Center
Posted at 12:34 PM, May 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 14:13:00-04

MISSOULA — Bug lovers of all ages have reason to celebrate.

The construction of the Rocky Mountain Gardens & Exploration Center is set to begin later this month at the Missoula County Fairgrounds.

“It’s been a long road, it’s been a bumpy road at times, but we are here. And we are so incredibly thrilled to be at this point," Glenn Marangelo, co-founder of Missoula Butterfly House & Insectarium, said in a speech addressing the crowd.

The groundbreaking ceremony Friday ushered in the facility’s development, which will take 18 months to build.

One major player in the project, the Missoula Butterfly House & Insectarium, will have a new home in the Exploration Center.

They’ll have insect displays, interactive exhibits and a 2,500-square-foot home to free-flying butterflies and tropical plants.

“This is a community project. It’s been grown by the community for such a long time that we just encourage people to get engaged and get involved,” Marangelo told MTN News.

Missoula County Weed District & Extension will also call the new facility home and will oversee over two acres of outdoor education gardens featuring native plants, a plant clinic, and more.

Director Jerry Marks has been planning something bigger and bolder for Missoula for over two decades. He said ultimately the project is for the youth.

“Certainly a lot of what we do is for the adults. But a lot of what we do is for the kids. I’ve long believed it is so important. If we’re going to have people grow up and try to understand our natural resource world, we have to start learning about it very young,” Marks said.

Public and private fund-raising for the project is ongoing. The “Join the Buzz” campaign is well on its way to its goal of $5 million.

At the end of the ceremony, all generations joined to break ground with golden shovels.

“You’re all part of this. I want you to be able to tell your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors or whoever; ‘I helped build that project,’” Marks told the crowd in a final speech.