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Mt. Dean Stone plans to include seasonal pet restrictions, hunting, trail connections

After acquiring 535 acres of open space on Mount Dean Stone in 2016 and in 2020, the City of Missoula is now developing plans for the trail system within the public corridor including seasonal pet restrictions, hunting and future trail connections. (Alex Mitchell/Missoula Current)

After acquiring 535 acres of open space on Mount Dean Stone in 2016 and in 2020, the City of Missoula is now developing plans for the trail system within the public corridor.

The draft plans for the city-owned property, referred to as the Mount Dean Stone Preserve, outline a 1.6-mile trail connecting the South Hills Spur to Mount Dean Stone’s peak. The plans also include seasonal hunting on the upper 239 acres of open space, seasonal dog restrictions, and other additions to the trails.

Much of the original plan created in 2016 and 2017 for the South Hills Spur acquisition will stay intact. But with the 2020 acquisition of much of the north face corridor, plans needed to be updated to reflect the additional open space and the “unique values” the land provides.

One such change is the elimination of potential connections of the South Hills to the peak of Dean Stone. The planned 1.6-mile trail to the South Hills Spur to the base of the Tall, Wide and Handsome Trail is considered as the connection.

For hunting, the plans state that the Mount Dean Stone Preserve historically borders properties that have been used for hunting, Now that it’s public property, the upper portion of the property will be converted into seasonal hunting property. The lower portion of the area was determined unsuitable for safe and feasible hunting.

The hunting plan that would be developed will determine the season, game species and other considerations. The only city-owned property that currently allows hunting is the greater Clark Fork property, according to Morgan Valiant, the city’s ecosystem services superintendent.

“Allowing public hunting on 239 acres of the Mount Dean Stone Preserve promotes local food acquisition, expands hunting opportunities on the urban fringe, and is consistent with historic and current uses on neighboring lands,” the plan states.

The plan also recommends domestic dog restrictions on the trails from Dec. 1 to May 1 on the Mount Dean Stone Preserve. With the original plans, the South Hills Spur was a designated “voice restraint” area for dogs, the same designation used for Mount Jumbo, North Hills and certain other city-owned lands.

But the areas purchased last year as part of the preserve have been considered by the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks as winter range for mule deer and elk.

Whitney Schwab, director of the Five Valleys Land Trust and Ben Horan, a member of the Mount Dean Stone Committee, hike a portion of Mount Dean Stone. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)

“This is the recommendation after much discussion with Fish Wildlife and Parks that they really did support,” Valiant said in a Parks and Recreation Board meeting last week. “I think it is also worth noting down that we’re not anticipating really heavy winter use with the snow. It’s a north-facing, shaded slope that requires a few miles of walking to get to first.”

The plan also details the development of the planned trail at an 8% grade for the new trails that are already much developed by Five Valleys Land Trust. The new trail is meant to be more accessible than other mountainous Missoula trails with a reduced slope, according to the proposal.

The plan is currently in a public hearing process and will be open for comment until Feb. 24, where it will then go to the Missoula City Council in the Parks and Conservation Committee.

City officials last December expected the new portion of the preserve to be opened for public access by spring.