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Missoula In Motion seeks partners to spearhead popular downtown parklets

Missoula In Motion hopes to continue the presence of popup parks in the downtown district, saying they provide a refuge for people in spaces generally reserved for cars. (City of Missoula photo)

Calling the program successful, Missoula In Motion hopes to continue the presence of popup parks in the downtown district, saying they provide a refuge for people in spaces generally reserved for cars.

But to do so, the nonprofit organization needs a partner to spearhead the effort and drum up support from area businesses.

“We have really scaled back the staff time and the resources we dedicate to the program, and we’ve tried to get other local partners to take it on,” said Katherine Auge, program coordinator with Missoula In Motion.

“Involvement and participation from businesses has declined over the past few years. If anyone does have the time to put into this, we have the resources and information, it’s just that staff time going to recruit the businesses.”

Missoula In Motion launched the parklet program in 2014 in partnership with the Missoula Parking Commission. The parklets transform a parking space into a public park, creating what Auge described as a public amenity.

The parks have proven popular during summer months, particularly First Friday. They’ve appeared as on-street libraries, rest areas, game zones and art galleries.

“This idea of trying to design streets more for people and on a human scale,” she said. “It’s a really simple way to create an additional amenity in downtown or in a neighborhood. They can be used for a number of different things.”

In other cities, parklets offer places to socialize, seek shade from the summer sun, eat lunch or read a book. The Missoula Parking Commissioner forfeits the revenue the space would otherwise generate to create a more pedestrian environment.

Auge described them as a great fit for downtown Missoula.

“Our goal would be to get a permanent parklet in Missoula,” said Auge. “A lot of cities have transformed these one-day popups to year round parklets, or just seasonally. In Missoula, it might look more like a seasonal parklet. It’s certainly something we see growing in other cities around the country.”

Missoula In Motion is funded by federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grants and has a small staff, making it difficult to continue the program without outside help.

Ben Weiss, manager of the city’s bicycle-pedestrian program, said the parklet program needs someone to promote it and seek business sponsors eager to participate.

“We can provide some of the bare bones to actually create the place and transform the space,” he said. “What we need is the assistance of getting (items) from our basement to the street. We’d definitely welcome the assistance.”