New City Park Could Bring a New Community Garden

Have you heard that the City of Missoula is putting in a new 4.5 acre park?! This piece of land is currently an old rail yard just off the corner of South and Johnson Street, along the Bitterroot Branch Bike Trail. On Thursday (November 16th), the City of Missoula invites residents to an open house to review a draft master plan for the new Montana Rail Link Park. 

Earlier this year, neighborhood residents attended a public Park Design Workshop to share their priorities and design ideas for the new park, and neighborhood feedback was incorporated into the draft master plan. This time around, Parks and Recreation staff will make a presentation to summarize the design process to date, present the current plan, and explain the next steps in designing and building the park. 

What is the vision?

A master park plan is a comprehensive, community vision for park which guides park future development. Earlier this year, the City acquired a 12-acre parcel at Johnson and South from Montana Rail Link using 1995 Open Space Bond funds for the park and urban renewal district funding through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency.

The sale and donation by Montana Rail Link of the 12 acres made possible the major steps of filling in the last missing link in the Bitterroot Trail between downtown Missoula and Hamilton and building a 4.5-acre park at the junction of two neighborhoods that have a severe shortage of open space and parks. In addition, the railroad has agreed to support a bicycle-pedestrian railroad crossing at Central Avenue, adjacent to the new park, supporting citizen goals for active transportation, connectivity, access and parkland service.

Photo by Stephen Ferry

Photo by Stephen Ferry

Why are we so excited?

Here at Garden City Harvest, we love all of our current community gardens and are continually looking for new opportunities to construct new gardens. Currently, Garden City Harvest's Community Garden program has 9 community gardens, 370 plots, and 700 + gardeners who grow approximately 92,000 pounds of food each year! For the last ___ seasons, all of our available garden plots have been filled, and we still have over 100 interested gardeners on the waitlist to receive a plot. This new park could include a new community garden and provide more Missoulians the access, ability, and inspiration to grow their own food.

Community Gardens Build Urban Value in three big ways:

1. Ecological Benefits: Community gardens can have a major impact on diverting compostable waste from landfills, reducing stormwater runoff, increasing biodiversity, and mitigating urban heat islands. 

2. Maintenance Savings: A Philadelphia study found that turning ten vacant lots, each one acre or less, into urban agriculture would save the city $50,000 per year in mowing costs. Community gardens also save city's and businesses on the water cost of irrigating a lawn which is a common substitute for green space in urban areas. 

3. Property Values: Community gardens raise surrounding property value. Recent studies in New York, Cleveland, and St. Louis have detailed this effect,and show that the closer a residential property is to a new community garden, the greater its increase in value. 

Another study of 636 community gardens and 517,791 property sales in New York City found residential property values to increase as much as 9.4%, if the property sits within 1000 feet of a new community garden, with this effect strongest in poorer neighborhoods. 

Open House Details

The open house runs from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, November 16, at the Sovereign Hope Church, 1919 North Avenue (Please use the entrance nearest W. Kent) Public comment on the draft master plan will be accepted from Nov. 16 through Nov. 30. For more information, follow this link to the City's website.

Once an unused triangular city park, Ivy Street Community Garden, installed in 2015,  is now a thriving garden and neighborhood asset.

Once an unused triangular city park, Ivy Street Community Garden, installed in 2015,  is now a thriving garden and neighborhood asset.