Montana Rail Link Park

A new park for the Franklin To Fort and Southgate Triangle Neighborhoods!

Montana Rail Link Park, a joint project from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA), Montana Rail Link (MRL) and Parks and Recreation, is now open. The new 4-acre park site is located between North and South Avenue, Johnson Street, and the Bitterroot Rail line. 

Parks and Recreation collaborated with Franklin to the Fort neighborhood residents, MRA and MRL to develop a master plan for the park through an extensive public process. Residents emphasized a desire for lots of open green space, a playground, a community garden, a dog park, a multi-use playing court, and a small pavilion. 

A design team led by DHM Design Landscape Architects developed the master plan into a detailed construction plan. The design reflects a rail yard, incorporating railway artifacts donated by MRL. The round playground with its locomotive play structures and radiating walks evokes a rail yard roundhouse. A signal tower cantilevered over the recently completed Bitterroot Trail serves as a sculptural entry feature.  Master Plan (PDF)

Park construction began in May 2018, and a grand opening celebration is slated for July 11, 2019. 

MRL Dog Park Rules

MRL Park Dog Rules

Project Funding

In 2018, the City acquired a 12-acre parcel at Johnson and South through a partnership with Montana Rail Link for $2 million, a price substantially below market value. The purchase was funded by 1995 Open Space Bond funds for the park and urban renewal district funding through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency for the remainder of the parcel.

The sale and donation by Montana Rail Link of the 12 acres will allow the City to fill in the last missing link in the Bitterroot Trail between downtown Missoula and Hamilton, and build a park at the junction of two neighborhoods that have a 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.

Development of MRA Park is funded primarily by Tax Increment Financing (TIF) through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency. Projects financed with TIF funds do not affect property taxes and are not paid for by the City's general fund. TIF is a redevelopment tool that allows cities, through the creation of special districts (urban renewal districts), to make public improvements within those districts that improve the quality of life and generate private-sector investment. 

At the creation of an urban renewal district, the tax base is “frozen” at the pre-district level. Property taxes continue to be paid at the base level, but taxes derived from increases in assessed values in that district (the tax increment) resulting from new development are reinvested in the district to leverage future growth.  For more information about TIF, please email Annette Marchesseault, MRA Project Manager/Redevelopment Specialist,  406-552-6158.

Parks construction will also be partially funded by City impact fees and a wood-waste reclamation grant from the Montana DNRC.

For more information on the park and trail projects, please email Neil Miner, Parks and Trails Design /Development Manager, 552-6264. Please see Related Documents below.

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