City forges maintenance agreement for new downtown art park

Crews hoisted a public restroom into place in the downtown art park last fall. A new maintenance agreement between Parks and Recreation, the Missoula Art Museum and Adventure Cycling details how the park – and the restroom – will be maintained. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current)

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

An agreement to manage Missoula’s new downtown art park – including its public restroom – is nearing completion and received approval from the City Council’s Parks and Conservation Committee on Wednesday.

While right-of-way agreements and maintenance responsibilities may not qualify as must-read topics, they’re an essential part of detailing who will do what when the new $1 million art park officially opens this spring.

The agreement details the role Missoula Parks and Recreation, the Missoula Art Museum and Adventure Cycling will play in keeping the park attractive to the public.

“This was really important to me, because we did not want to set a precedent where city government is maintaining private residences or businesses,” said Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler.

“This agreement finds that middle spot that recognizes we’ve placed significant public infrastructure right in front of a nonprofit business, and we’re going to share maintenance of that place without stepping over the line saying we’re maintaining your place.”

Adventure Cycling committed $75,000 toward the new city park and has paid $10,000 thus far. The balance will be paid once the city approves the maintenance agreement, according to city documents.

Under that agreement, Adventure Cycling will be responsible for routine and long-term maintenance on its portion of the park, including irrigation and flower beds. It must also keep the public sidewalk free of any obstructions.

The city is responsible for repairs and alterations to landscaping and irrigation within its portion of the right of way.

“Any irrigation connecting to the building is Adventure Cycling’s responsibility,” said Gaukler. “Any irrigation connected to the museum’s irrigation system is Parks’ responsibility, except Adventure Cycling will be mowing the turf grass, just as they have always been doing.”

Gaukler said the Missoula Art Museum will be responsible for the installation and maintenance of its outdoor art exhibits. It must also pay the cost of lighting the exhibits and will be required to shovel its sidewalk, though not the park.

The agreement also places the risk of selling beer and wine upon the museum, which possesses a Montana permit to sell the beverages.

“We have transferred that risk and liability back to the museum,” Gaukler said. “There will be events out on the lawn permitted and have to meet all Montana’s requirements for sale and distribution of alcohol.”

The management agreement for use of the park isn’t unlike the agreement covering Caras Park, including use and set up of the public space, fee collections and the role city Parks and Rec plays in the process.

The agreement also covers cleaning of the public restroom, which was installed as part of the construction effort last year. Gaukler said Parks and Recreation will clean the restroom once each morning.

“When you have a public restroom, all it takes is one visitor to completely make that restroom look like no one has been there for a week,” said Gaukler. “What we’re trying to do is, we’ll make one stop in the morning, as we do in any typical park. From there, it’s the manager’s responsibility to keep that facility looking good through the events. I’m sure that will be a work in progress, especially with a downtown restroom.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com