Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With summer in full swing and blistering temperatures on the way, Missoula County is bracing for a wave of recreation and the planning that comes with it.

From Marshall Mountain to floating the Clark Fork River, issues around parking, transportation and trail work are in play. Making good on an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service is also on the table.

Chet Crowser, the county's chief lands and communities officer, said the county is working to get an inventory of stand densities, signs of disease and a road inventory across the 480 acres of public land on Marshall Mountain.

“We're still working on our interim forest plan,” said Crowser. “Montana Forest Consultants are working on their baseline assessments out there. That will allow us by July to give them (USFS) an interim management plan for that.”

Voters last approved an Open Space Bond in 2018 and a portion of that went to the public purchase of Marshall Mountain. Already, several large events have taken place, including two mountain bike events that together drew more than 500 riders.

Crowser said county staff are working with Mountain Bike Missoula to develop the first round of accessible, multi-use trails and adaptive-friendly downhill routes. The mountain bike group secured $100,000 for trail development at Marshall and the county provided a $75,000 match.

“We're working on an (agreement) that'll set them up for their trail design with construction anticipated toward later in the summer,” he said. “It's nice to see some collaborative partnerships and some funding coming to the next round of trail development.”

Also this month, crews finished installing the new grandstands at the Missoula County Fairgrounds ahead of the summer fair. Larchmont Golf Course is also in full swing and the number of golfers using the course is growing.

“The course has been very, very busy,” said Rick Spurgeon, head of golf professionals at the course. “From 2020 until now, season passes are up 39%. Right now, it's almost too many people out there. It's tough for the course to keep up.”

The mountain's ski slopes have given way to top-notch mountain biking trails.
The mountain's ski slopes have given way to top-notch mountain biking trails.

Temperatures in the coming week are forecast to hit the upper 90s, according to the National Weather Service, and the summer float season is close at hand. Last year, the county completed a new parking lot and access point at Sha-Ron to handle the growing number of users.

The county is also working with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to install bike racks at Sha-Ron. Since the University of Montana won't be running its summer shuttle to the site, Crowser believes Mountain Line will.

“They weren't able to run their university shuttle this summer, so we had meetings with Mountain Line,” he said. “That's on their Route 4. They'll be coordinating with us and the river ambassadors on best locations to take out and park and get on the Mountain Line service.”