Construction of the new Fort Missoula Regional Park is progressing on schedule, with portions of the first phase expected to open to the public this September.

Donna Gaukler, director of Missoula Parks and Recreation, said a new pavilion, plaza, restrooms, parking lots and trails should be in place by the fall.

“Our goal is to open in late September, if we're sufficiently far enough along to allow the public onto the hardscape surfaces,” Gaukler said. “The seeded grass needs time to root, so it won't be ready. But as soon as the synthetic turf facility is open, we'll start scheduling use of it right a way.”

Crews continued Tuesday to level the expansive western portion of the 156-acre project. In the coming months, nine new soccer fields will take shape, along with a central picnic area and plaza.

“We put a lot of parking on the southern and western part of Phase 1,” said Gaukler. “As part of our stakeholder meetings and recognizing that the historic programs don't have nearly sufficient parking, this will really enhance the parking.”

Mike Gessner (Photo by Martin Kidston)

While the project progresses on schedule, Mark Gessner, caretaker of the 32-acre Historic Fort Missoula, worries that heavy use of the new park will change the quietude of the historic grounds. He's also concerned about water.

“They wanted to tap into the main line, which will cut our water flow,” said Gessner. “They've already tapped into it over there by the fort. The line is only so big and it can barely sustain what's here. They're going to be tapping a lot of water.”

Gaukler said water sharing won't be an issue.

“If it needed upgrading to not affect other users, we would have done that through Mountain Water requirements,” Gaukler said. “We'll be fine.”

Gaukler said the park will incorporate dry-land grasses and other water-saving features. Trees will be drip-irrigated and the parking lots are designed to drain in swails.

Gaukler said the project aims to meet Sustainable SITES standards – the landscaping equivalent to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design used in green building techniques.

“We're doing everything we can to be fully sustainable,” Gaukler said.