Missoula Downtown Foundation Raises $650,000 For Caras Park Upgrades

North Riverside Parks & Trail Plan Phase 1 Underway with Prospect Construction

With financial support from almost 50 Downtown businesses and organizations, the Missoula Downtown Foundation has raised $650,000 in just four months to help jumpstart implementation of the North Riverside Parks & Trails Plan with major improvements to Caras Park. Prospect Construction will commence construction on Monday, Oct. 4.

Phase I improvements include the installation of a stormwater infiltration gallery to further improve water quality in the Clark Fork River. The additional improvements include a new and expanded amphitheater seating area with more flexible seating opportunities and improved ADA access, a flatter multi-use lawn space for events and every-day activities, improved connections between the river and Caras Park, and an 18-footwide riverfront promenade. Additional accessible pathways, vendor and electrical hookups, new lighting, benches, lawn, and trees will create a safer, more accessible, and more sustainable park that all Missoulians can enjoy for years to come.

The investments will improve water quality, circulation, capacity, and aesthetics of Missoula’s most popular parks and downtown destinations. The stormwater project builds upon the 2017 installation of a hydrodynamic separator, which removes larger contaminants in stormwater collected in the 60-acre downtown area. Once the stormwater project is completed, a team will be assigned to conduct periodic inspections and work with a local company that provides stormwater system maintenance services.

The project is a collaboration with the City of Missoula Parks and Recreation, City Public Works & Mobility, and the Downtown Missoula Partnership. Combining the stormwater project and park improvements while the Montana Department of Transportation is rebuilding the Bear Tracks Bridge means less construction time, reduced impact on the riverfront parks and trails, and a savings of approximately $100,000 in construction costs.

The stormwater infiltration gallery will improve the water quality of the Clark Fork River by diverting the first one-half inch of stormwater into the gallery, which will prevent dissolved contaminants like grease, oil, bacteria, and water warmed by the streets from entering the river. Improving the water quality at the outfall is beneficial to public health and safety because major stormwater contaminants will go to the infiltration system instead of the river outlet, downstream from Brennan’s Wave, a popular recreation area.

“The Missoula Downtown Foundation is here to raise funds for implementation of the Downtown Master Plan and for Downtown projects and programs that benefit our community,” said Libby Brunell, Board President. “By partnering with the City of Missoula and bringing in substantial support from the private sector, we are saving a significant amount of money and an entire construction season! We can’t wait to showcase these improvements during next year’s event season.”

If all goes as planned, Prospect Construction will complete the upgrades in May 2022, and the Caras Park Pavilion will be open for community events and festivals in May. Impacts to park and trail users this winter will be minimal, with some trail closures expected next spring.

Prospect was formed in Washington in 1998 as a general contractor specializing in wastewater treatment projects. Having expanded into other fields of construction and opening an office in Missoula in 2020, Prospect is delighted to be working in Downtown Missoula.

The total cost of the upgrades will be just over $2.2 million dollars with funding coming from a variety of different sources:

  • $750,000 from the City of Missoula Capital Improvement Program
  • $650,000 from the Missoula Downtown Foundation & its partners
  • $397,000 from the State Revolving Fund
  • $359,000 American Rescue Plan Act Grant
  • $125,000 Renewable Resource Grant

“It’s pretty amazing what we can accomplish together when we put our heads and resources together,” said Brunell. “We can shoot for bigger impact for Downtown, better projects, and collaborations that can take things to the next level.”

Future phases of the North Riverside Parks & Trails Plan include transforming the area under the Bear Tracks Bridge into a vibrant and colorful multi-use play space, improved river access and bank restoration in Caras and Bess Reed Parks, improved gateways and circulation, an expanded and better-connected riverfront promenade throughout Downtown Missoula, new restrooms, ice skating opportunities near the Carousel to activate the parks year-round, and improvements to Kiwanis Park and Downtown Lions Park.

For more information on this project or future improvements, visit North Riverside Parks & Trails Plan or contact the Downtown Missoula Partnership Office via email (info@missouladowntown.com) or phone (406-543-4238).