Earth Day 2019: Missoula Urban Demonstration seeks new, wider mission

Missoula Urban Demonstration Project executive director Filip Panusz is considering construction of a new facility at MUD’s current location on Wyoming Street. (Mari Hall/Missoula Current)

The Missoula Urban Demonstration Project is considering plans to build a new facility on its Wyoming Street acreage to create a better area for environmental sustainability education and workshop space.

MUD executive director Filip Panusz said a new facility is needed to expand the group’s services to everyone in Missoula.

Started in 1981, the organization hosts do-it-yourself, or DIY, workshops and manages a tool library, a demonstration garden, and even provides members with a truck to use for hauling and moving.

“The mission is to promote sustainable living through hands-on learning, resource sharing and community engagement,” Panusz said.

Panusz, who has recently taken the position of executive director, has managed other nonprofits and wants to use the entire acre of land that MUD currently sits on to its full advantage.

A few years ago, MUD moved from its site on the Northside to allow more flexibility and provide the community with better access to resources. However, the new location uses repurposed storage containers to house all of the equipment, which presents a few limitations.

“We want to honor the tradition of demonstration in this process and so the idea is not only for the end result but also the entire process to be representative of the values and ideas we stand for,” he said.

Having a facility to host events, workshops and offices would help the organization better serve all of Missoula, Panusz said.

“We want to refocus and double down on environmental education. Ultimately, that’s a huge part of how you affect the future of a community because you really need to teach the youth and teach community members to look at things more creatively through a different lens,” he said.

The facility would also have a workers space with equipment and tools members can access, including a range of supplies from a wrench and saw to a tractor, Panusz said. Home ReSource, which sits next door to MUD, will also be a valuable partnership as people learn more about sustainable living.

“The second part is to create a workers space because a lot of people need the tools, but don’t have them. They have ideas, they have projects to do, but folks don’t have the space to accommodate that on their own property,” he said.

The plan for the facility, which is in its very early stages, has not been adopted yet. But Panusz said his goal is to involve Missoula’s youth and to learn more about what the community wants from MUD.

“Really, the focus for us is to teach people how to creatively find solutions in an urban setting to help them be environmentally sustainable and responsible, while at the same time ensuring that that is accessible to everyone regardless of economic status,” he said.

University of Montana students conducted a survey for MUD and received more than 250 responses that provided feedback and suggestions for the new facility. MUD’s 13th annual Earth Day celebration will be another opportunity to collect more public comments on the organization’s future.

A full report on the survey results has yet to be completed.

“I think we’ve gotten to the point where everybody is pretty much on the same page in terms of being ready to implement and adopt some tangible goals and targets. We’re having serious conversations about that and Earth Day is our opportunity to throw that out into the community,” Panusz said.

This year’s celebration centers around the global theme of “protect our species,” and will feature a few nonprofits, including Animal Wonders and Raptors of the Rockies to showcase a falcon, owl, beaver, and other animals. The event is free to the public and will be held Saturday, April 20 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at both the MUD and Home ReSource properties.

Reporter Mari Hall can be reached via email at mari.hall@missoulacurrent.com.