City Council vacates downtown right-of-way to meet federal parkland requirements

A master park plan for the north riverside park system in downtown Missoula.

In an otherwise slow Monday night, the Missoula City Council answered a request by the mayor to vacate a small sliver of grass near the downtown Holiday Inn to stay in accordance with federal park regulations.

Vacating the right-of-way won’t result in any changes, other than bookkeeping and an extra $27 paid annually to the Business Improvement District.

“It’s just going to change the designation of the land, but it’s going to remain the same,” said Brandt Dahlen, the construction project coordinator for the city.

Portions of Caras and Bess Reed Parks in downtown Missoula were paid for in part using funding from the  federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. And that comes with rules.

The right-of-way vacation is marked in green.

When the city added curbside parking near the Caras Park pavilion for loading and emergency services, it effectively took away LWCF parkland.

Vacating the right of way near Pattee Street and Bess Reed Park, and changing its designation, will replace what was removed with the parking arrangement.

“This is Land and Water Conservation Fund property and deed restricted as such,” said Dahlen. “This will provide a replacement for the parkland that was removed as required by federal grant.”

Charlie McDermid, owner of the downtown Holiday Inn, waived his right to half the right-of-way.

The vacation of property won’t result in any visible changes.

“This does fit with the vision that’s being set forth with the North Riverside Park Plan,” said council member Mirtha Becerra. “This will fit in with what the community has set as part of the overall vision for this area.”

The master plan sets a vision for the downtown park system, including year-round use of Caras and Bess Reed parks. Portions of that work could begin this year while the Bear Tracks Bridge is under construction.