The Kim Williams Trail along the Clark Fork River is a beloved recreational treasure in existence for only 30 years. Imagine the uproar if the city or the University of Montana proposed building on it!
The UM Golf Course is every bit as precious to Missoula for its popularity and diverse recreational uses. But this recreational treasure has been in existence since 1916! In 2005, however, UM planned to build retirement housing on the course's open space. This occurred just before Missoulians approved a $10 million bond to purchase more open space for a growing community.
Missoulians rose up and successfully blocked this plan. But, in 2007, UM developed a new plan. It would build a South Campus there, deemed vital to UM's future. Ironically, then-president George Dennison had assured the Board of Regents in 2005 that the main campus could accommodate 23,000 students, 8,000 more than the school's record enrollment would be in 2010.
By 2011, however, plans had changed again, and the UM Golf Course would now be buried under a Missoula College (formerly the College of Technology) campus. The destruction of this open space would begin with one building, and it would stand alone for perhaps another decade.
Not addressed by the UM were: 1) the money and time devoted since 1994 to building a new COT campus on UM land at Fort Missoula; 2) the numerous UM-owned, build-able parcels including those on the main campus; 3) the negative economic effects on local profit and nonprofit businesses; 4) the negative environmental effects of increased traffic, noise, pollution and parking on the surrounding residents; 5) loss of an important student, faculty/staff recruitment tool; 6) the growing value and importance of urban multi-use open space as Missoula grows; and 7) changing teaching techniques (online courses, for example) that require fewer buildings.
Let's protect the multi-use "South Campus" open space when other suitable building sites exist for a new Missoula College we all support.
Ian M. Lange