Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Missoula County commissioners on Tuesday signed the closing documents for the purchase of Marshall Mountain, setting the stage for public ownership of the 480-acre park on a former ski hill northeast of the city.

The documents will go to the title company on Thursday, at which point the transaction becomes official. The cost of the purchase, which includes roughly $2 million from the city and county's Open Space Bond, won't change residents' current or future taxes.

“You won't see any impact on your tax bill because of Marshall,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick. “That money was allocated years ago. It was set aside in the Open Space Bond fund years ago, it's just now being spent.

Voters approved the bond in 2018 and, coupled with grants from the U.S. Forest Service and The Conservation Alliance – and donations from Friends of Marshall Mountain – the property will serve as the region's newest public asset.

Kali Becker, the county's open lands manager, said the county will slowly assume management of the property after closing this week. Management responsibilities between the city and county were laid out in an interlocal agreement signed last year.

“The city has been managing public access of the property while it's been under private ownership. They have a lot of established practices in how they've been maintaining that property,” said Becker. “The plan this year is for the city and county to work together and for the county to learn from what the city has been doing.”

Earlier this month, the county formed a new Department of Lands, Culture and Recreation which, among other things, will eventually manage Marshall Mountain. Becker said the county will eventually take the lead in the park's operations and maintenance.

But that could take time to evolve, she added.

“There will be a lot of learning that happens this year, understanding what the needs are for management,” said Becker. “We've been working with the city on permitting for events up there. I'm sure there will be things that come up we're not anticipating.”