Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With construction of the Rocky Mountain Gardens and Exploration Center winding down and a lease agreement in place with the insectarium, Missoula County on Tuesday notched the other half of the deal, this time with the county's conservation district.

The new facility, located at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, broke ground last summer. The 28,000 square-foot facility will house the Butterfly House and Insectarium, along with the Missoula Conservation District.

Tuesday's agreement details how the county and the conservation district will split utility costs and divide space within the facility, among other particulars.

“The conservation district is another government entity, and we went through the process to create an interlocal agreement with them last winter,” said Bryce Christiaens, manager of the county's Weed District. “That called out the need for this document to take the place of the clauses and conditions you'd have in a lease agreement.”

The county has already signed a standard lease agreement with the Butterfly House and Insectarium, which will occupy a portion of the new building. The attraction will include a warm and tropical house that's home to free-flying butterflies and flowering plants.

The new Missoula Insectarium will include outdoor garden plots that attract different species. (Image courtesy of A&E)
The new Missoula Insectarium will include outdoor garden plots that attract different species. (Image courtesy of A&E)

That portion of the facility will include 2,500 square feet and employ around a dozen people, backers have said. Roughly $5 million in private funding was raised for the attraction, which will accommodate field trips and family groups.

The Rocky Mountain Garden's and Exploration Center will also include a 2-acre educational garden, a demonstration kitchen, greenhouses and a plant lab. Partners include Missoula County 4-H, Missoula Future Farmers of America and the Missoula Midtown Association, among others.

The building will also house the Missoula Conservation District, which has it's own agricultural focus.

“This is the last document that will outline the relationship between Missoula County and our partners when we move in next year,” said Christiaens. “We should hopefully have the building handed over to the county by mid-May and complete our move in June.”