Missoula will help manage Marshall Mountain access following sale

Izzy Dog LLC partners Pam Volkmann (left), Sandy Volkmann and Rika Wishcamper. The fourth partner Rick Wishcamper isn’t pictured. (Dennis Bragg/KPAX)

(KPAX) The new owners of Marshall Mountain say they intend for the the former ski area to “remain the truly unique and special recreational resource” for the Missoula community.

Rick and Rika Wishcamper, and Sandy and Pam Volkmann, joined Missoula leaders on Friday to celebrate the new path forward. The purchase of the property kept it from falling into private ownership, perhaps threatening public access.

The deal between Izzy Dog, LLC, named after the Volkmann’s labradoodle, allows the resort to stay in local ownership while the transfer to public ownership is worked out.

“We intend to further explore recreational opportunities through a mindful planning process with the city and their partners, the county, Five Valleys Land Trust, the Forest Service and the public, in order for Marshall Mountain to realize its fullest potential,” said a statement to reporters. 

“This is a public-minded private transaction that turns into a private transaction to a public entity so this facility, this mountain, can be maintained in perpetuity for recreation and the community-at-large to enjoy,” noted Missoula Mayor John Engen.

Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick said Marshall Mountain represents both the “vibrant local culture” and “easy access to beautiful public land and water.”

“We may have seen over the recent past a bit of a risk that since we’ve become so discovered, our beloved homeland here may become a play land for the few. This act of generosity, our partnership, will make sure that this is open for everybody.”

The city is emphasizing that public access across the property will remain closed for the next few weeks as the Parks Department sets up an initial operation plan, with expected re-opening in August.

Marshall Mountain was closed as a ski area in 2003, although its remained a popular destination for backcountry skiers, mountain bike riders and kids’ recreational events.

The site encompasses 156-acres at the head of Marshall Canyon, and is surrounded by National Forest lands and conservation easements providing access by the Five Valleys Land Trust.

The owners hope to have Missoula assume public ownership within the next two years. Missoula won’t have to annex the property to have public ownership, since it’s within the boundaries of the Open Space program.