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This aerial photo shows the area the city is purchasing with its open space money to expand the Kelly Island Recreation area. Photo courtesy of Don Berg.

Missoula Council Approves Expanding Kelly Island

The Missoula City Council Monday unanimously approved using the city’s open space bond money for its first land purchase, adding 40 undeveloped, cottonwood-filled acres to the existing Kelly Island Recreation Area.

The sales price, $20,000, will come from a $10 million bond approved by voters last November. Fish Wildlife and Parks will manage the land, which will bring additional hiking, swimming and fishing opportunities along the Clark Fork River.

“It’s a very good deal,” says Jackie Corday, the city’s Open Space Program Manager.

The property, west of Reserve Street, has been in the same family since 1917, when Martin Berg bought it to harvest the land’s many cottonwood trees, Corday said.

“He bought it to ensure they had enough firewood,” she said. “It has really beautiful, tall cottonwoods on it.”

And now Martin Berg’s grandchildren are passing the land on to the public.

“The money is not the point at all,” says Don Berg, Martin’s grandson. “It ought to be used by the overall public.”

The city also has its eye on future open space investments, including four prime agricultural parcels in the Glass Valley Area, Corday says. That land is currently is use for farming, and buying conservation easements from the current owners will ensure it stays that way, she says.

The Grass Valley deal is in the very early stages, Corday says, but she hopes to close on it soon and help preserve Missoula’s cultural roots for generations to come.

In other business, the council will hold off before deciding on the proposed changes to the city’s definition of agriculture and updating the subdivision rules, allowing public comment for one more week.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Don Berg and misnamed Grass Valley. We apologize for the errors.

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