City moves forward with key East Broadway trail connection

A deal between the city of Missoula and an East Broadway landowner will help secure an easement for a key piece of trail running along the north bank of the Clark Fork River.

Members of the City Council on Wednesday approved spending roughly $91,000 in funding from the 2006 Open Space Bond to secure the easement, calling it a significant step in creating an unbroken riverside trail.

“What we have here is an opportunity to connect that paved path all the way to Hellgate Park,” said Elizabeth Erickson, an attorney with the city’s Open Space Program. “That will secure a connection all the way from Missoula College to Easy Street. It will help the city get one step further to connecting this trail, and connect people to services and their recreation areas.”

The narrow parcel, located adjacent to Creekside Apartments, was initially purchased by a private developer who planned to build a seven-unit condominium on the site, with no room for the riverside trail.

The city purchased the parcel last year for around $326,000 and plans to recover the funding by reselling the parcel, this time with the easement intact.

“The city currently owns the land, but it’s an interim landowner,” said Erickson. “The idea is to sell the property to the adjacent property owner, purchase a trail easement across 1505 E. Broadway, and secure a trail easement across the adjacent property.”

Completing the trail has been a city goal for a number of years, though it was amplified in 2010 when two girls were struck by a drunken driver and killed on East Broadway.

“There was a very bad accident that happened on this stretch when a truck hit several high school girls there who were walking where there should have been a sidewalk,” said council member Gwen Jones. “Putting the path in is another piece in making this a safer connector between East Missoula and Missoula. Any time we can make it a safer situation, this is better.”

Missoula County commissioners last week qualified the acquisition for open space funding. It must be approved by both the county and the city. A public hearing will be held on June 17.

“We were presented with an opportunity we acted on quickly,” said council member John DiBari. “It reflects our long-term interest to perfect these kinds of easements across the community and build out our non-motorized transportation network.”