Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Ambassadors will return to the Clark Fork River this year to help address public safety and promote good behavior during the recreational season.

The program, managed by the Clark Fork Coalition, began in 2021 and has been restored each of the last two years. This year's $55,000 contract will build on last year's success in a partnership with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the City of Missoula.

Chet Crowser, the county's director of planning, said FWP will contribute $10,000 to the program and the city $15,000.

“The remainder of that will be covered hopefully through fundraising, with the county willing to cover whatever is left of that $55,000,” Crowser said. “This is essentially the same thing we've had for the last two seasons.”

Pressure on the Clark Fork River has grown in recent decades as the summer heat intensifies and the river becomes an easy afternoon getaway. Parking and traffic congestion have created safety concerns while human impacts have increased erosion, litter and drunken behavior.

The ambassadors look to teach proper river ethics while the Associated Students of the University of Montana continue free shuttle service in an effort to relieve parking congestion.

The county and FWP are also building a new and larger parking lot at the Sha Ron access site to keep cars from parking along the highway. The project is expected to finish in June.

“It's a good program,” Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said of the ambassador program.