The Agenda with the Missoula County Commissioners

Outdoor Education & Recreation: The Future of Marshall Mountain Park

August 10, 2023 Missoula County Commissioners Season 3 Episode 14
Outdoor Education & Recreation: The Future of Marshall Mountain Park
The Agenda with the Missoula County Commissioners
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The Agenda with the Missoula County Commissioners
Outdoor Education & Recreation: The Future of Marshall Mountain Park
Aug 10, 2023 Season 3 Episode 14
Missoula County Commissioners

Marshall Mountain, located between East Missoula and Bonner, has been a haven for locals to enjoy the outdoors since the early 20th century. Now, there’s an opportunity to secure the base area of the former ski hill and surrounding areas for public ownership. But this potential park has a lot of moving parts: three different pieces of land with separate private owners, two governments, two public processes for open space bond funding, management considerations and more.

This week, the commissioners talked to Chet Crowser, Chief Lands & Communities Officer for Missoula County, and Donna Gaukler, Director of Parks & Recreation for the City of Missoula, about the scope of this project and what’s next for this beloved area.

Related links:

Thank you to Missoula's Community Media Resource for podcast recording support!

Show Notes Transcript

Marshall Mountain, located between East Missoula and Bonner, has been a haven for locals to enjoy the outdoors since the early 20th century. Now, there’s an opportunity to secure the base area of the former ski hill and surrounding areas for public ownership. But this potential park has a lot of moving parts: three different pieces of land with separate private owners, two governments, two public processes for open space bond funding, management considerations and more.

This week, the commissioners talked to Chet Crowser, Chief Lands & Communities Officer for Missoula County, and Donna Gaukler, Director of Parks & Recreation for the City of Missoula, about the scope of this project and what’s next for this beloved area.

Related links:

Thank you to Missoula's Community Media Resource for podcast recording support!


Josh Slotnick: [00:00:10] Welcome back, everybody, to Tip of the Spear with your Missoula County commissioners. I'm Josh Slotnick and I'm joined by my friend and fellow commissioner Juanita Vero. And our buddy Dave is not able to make it today, but today we have with us two wonderful guests. We have our own... When I say our own, I mean Missoula County's own Chet Crouser. And we have Donna Gaugler from the city. And we're going to be talking about the Marshall Mountain Project. So welcome to both of you guys. I want to start with just introducing yourselves. 


Donna Gaukler: [00:00:36] Sure. Donna Gaukler, I'm the director of City Missoula Parks and Recreation and have been working with the city since 2002 in that capacity and actually familiar with Marshall Mountain going back to 1991.


Chet Crowser: [00:00:48] All right. And I'm Chet Crouser. I'm the Chief Lands and Communities officer for Missoula County, which amongst many things, we also oversee a lot of the recreation work that the county does and have worked with the city on a number of fronts. So it's not unusual to be joining Donna and talking about these kinds of community priorities.


Juanita Vero: [00:01:04] Well, before we dive in, for those who don't know, tell us where and what is Marshall Mountain? Sure.


Chet Crowser: [00:01:10] So Marshall Mountain is located at the headwaters of Marshall Creek, so that's surrounded by Lolo National Forest here just east of Missoula. And if you have driven the road between East Missoula and the Bonner Mill town area, there are along the river. You may have noticed the old Marshall sign and it heads up kind of into the hillside there. There was a ski area. It's been used for recreation for probably over 100 years in the mid 1920s is when it kind of became more known for skiing and winter recreation. And then really from there it operated as a commercial ski area. Until then, conditions and things changed and it has ceased to be an active ski area, although a lot of folks I'm not one of them, but it sounds like maybe Donna is one who remembers back to those days. And it's not uncommon to hear a lot of stories from people who learned to ski there or remember various trips there and experiences that they've had, notably to long before this was a popular recreation spot or the local community knew it as Marshall. For more of those recreational opportunities. It is and was a heart of the Salish and Kalispell Aboriginal territories. And so there is a place named there around Marshall Creek and Marshall Mountain that I won't try to pronounce, but the meaning "it has white clay." And that was really significant in terms of cleaning white buckskin that in conjunction with the many other place names around Marshall around Missoula are really part of that traditional Aboriginal context and also the existing world and context for our good neighbors and friends and folks who came long before us in this the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.


Josh Slotnick: [00:02:37] Thanks for bringing that up, Chet. So many people may remember that there was an effort to save the base area of Marshall from private ownership a couple of years ago, but they might not really realize that the scope of the project has changed since then. Can you guys kind of bring us up to date on where we are now? Sure.


Donna Gaukler: [00:02:53] There's actually been multiple efforts to save Marshall Mountain over the years, ever since it closed. I can recall at least two real significant efforts where there was work put into feasibility study, consideration of reopening it for winter or year round park the various land exchanges, along with the Nature Conservancy and the Plum Creek Lions and the Forest Service. So unique to this site also is that we're just a stone's throw from lands that are connected to Mount Jumbo, which is already city open space, and we're surrounded by forest services. Unique front country experience for Recreationalists that gets you very quickly into the back and the wilderness. Those efforts initially were mixed. I recall at one point Discovery Ski Basin looking at Marshall Mountain as a potential second user owned mountain. Those didn't pencil out exactly, or at least they didn't at the time. And then there were also efforts by Five Valleys Land Trust, as I mentioned, during those land exchanges and transfers, which protected the center part of the mountain with the idea that long term, the mountain would be protected. And here we are today, which is pretty exciting. The parcels consist of the base area which has been for sale for some time and the city had made a preliminary offer. I never got to a an accepted written offer, but had made a preliminary offer to acquire the lands about four years ago. And then the Five Valleys Land Trust lands were already protected and MTB mountain bike Missoula had been developing trails on them for some time.


Josh Slotnick: [00:04:25] So and interrupt Donna, you said, The five valleys Land. So there's Five Valleys Land Trust owned some land that's contiguous with the base area, is that correct?


Donna Gaukler: [00:04:32] Yes, immediately above it.


Josh Slotnick: [00:04:33] And how much land are we talking about in the base area and in the five valleys land?


Donna Gaukler: [00:04:38] Each of the parcels, I believe, is 120 acres.


Josh Slotnick: [00:04:40] Isn't there a third one as well...?


Donna Gaukler: [00:04:41] Each of the parcels is 160 acres. And then the third piece is the Conservation Fund, which is, as you were looking up mountain. Maybe that's the best way to explain for most people to the left of the chairlift.


Josh Slotnick: [00:04:54] What's the Conservation Fund?


Donna Gaukler: [00:04:55] The Conservation Fund is one of our many partners. Think of them similar to Five Valleys Land Trust. They work with communities or organizations to protect land, providing the resources initially up front to set that aside while a eventual partner or owner is able to sort out whether or not resources are available. And so without those kinds of organizations, those land trusts, we know that both city and probably county open space programs would be much more difficult because all this work is so opportunistic and we do not move that fast because we have significant public process.


Juanita Vero: [00:05:29] And are they a national group or regional group?


Chet Crowser: [00:05:31] Yeah, they're a national organization.


Josh Slotnick: [00:05:33] So would you mind kind of describing what events took place that got us to this point right now where we are contemplating, if not working, actively working towards public ownership of all three parcels? What happened that brought us to this point, as Donna described?


Chet Crowser: [00:05:47] I mean, this has been this has been a focal point for the community of Missoula for a long time. And so as these conversations have come in, in some cases gone, I think the urgency continued to increase around what happens to Marshall over the long term. And so we have these conservation partners, these land acquisition partners that were part of that equation. And then we had a philanthropic group come forward to acquire the base parcel and then find a creative way to seek public ownership. And so I think as those conversations evolved and the county's focus on some of our recreation work changed, the existing partnership that we had with the city just became a little bit more robust. And we've been moving forward now to just consider what those options look like if we're to be able to acquire Marshall Mountain Factors in all the partners. Et cetera. So I really think most of the work we've done has been built over time through different efforts with different groups and different partners, but all as a large community conversation. And we've gotten to a point now where the timing and the partners and all the folks that need to be at the table are and it seems as though we have a path forward.


Josh Slotnick: [00:06:50] I understand it, right? We've got three different parcels of land that are contiguous, all owned by conservation owners who want to hold these lands in the short term so they won't get developed or sold off privately and with their goal to make them public, which would mean selling it to a public entity. So that brings us to this moment where the city and county are contemplating and we have our processes to work through using open space funds to buy all three of the parcels.


Chet Crowser: [00:07:15] Yeah, that's one piece of the overall equation and we can talk about the overall costs. But one of the conversations that has come out of some of the community activity, the philanthropic engagement here was how do we get this into public ownership and then how do we help reimburse some of the costs that those partners have incurred. And not all of those costs are expected to be paid in full as we move forward through this process. There's certainly some donative value that's expected to come from those partners as well. So again, it's expected to be a full community sort of effort. We've gone through the process both with city and county open space advisory boards, and I say that generally they have different names, but they are the ones that oversee those expenditures for city and county and then make recommendations to the decision making bodies to consider the use of those open space bond funds for that particular purpose.


Josh Slotnick: [00:08:04] Right now, this offer is kind of on the table. These three entities saying, we'd like to sell this to you city and county, and we'll donate a portion of the costs. And now each of the city and the county has a committee that oversees the use of open space dollars. Our our respective open space bonds. Those two committees have to go through a process and then make recommendations to electeds and then the electeds eventually decide, is that accurate?


Donna Gaukler: [00:08:27] That's correct, yeah. And without the partners, I'm going to back us even up to the landowners who ultimately sold to Izzy Dog LLC. It's because of their generosity from the beginning that we've been able to operate so many recreation programs on site and not just Parks and Rec, city parks and recreation without a school program and summer camp. But there's been numerous events up there. There's been numerous mountain bike racing and learn to ride hiking festivals. And those were all allowed or permitted by the original landowner. And then when purchased by Izzy Dog, with the ultimate goal that Marshall Mountain would continue as a park for outdoor recreation in perpetuity with public access. So the very intent of Izzy Dog was to provide the bridge to get us from private ownership to public ownership. And the great thing about that, as well as the Five Valleys Land Trust parcel, is we've been able to use those lands as though they were in public ownership all along. Of course, that's built a lot of enthusiasm and support, but it also is amazing the amount of participation we've had considering there is no easy access to the trail systems at this time. And so everybody's working around on Forest Service access roads, climbing really steep, ski access, service roads. And so this is an amazing opportunity to expand the recreation offerings for all of the confluence communities. We want to keep in mind that Missoula residents are heavy users, but Missoula County residents, especially from the confluence communities, are using that mountain park at about the same rate percentage.


Donna Gaukler: [00:10:09] Population wise as everybody else. And so this is a really cool regional park concept where we can do good work in preserving those lands that have been acquired for the purpose of preservation for habitat like native Missoula Phlox and Bitterroot flowers and North Hills elk habitat on Mount Jumbo. And you think about all the different fishery and hunting habitat. Well, here's an opportunity for us to provide a space that's been historically since 1920s, used for intense recreation in a mountain based setting. And to continue that legacy, and I mentioned earlier, I became familiar with Marshall Mountain in 1991 because it's where I started skiing and first started teaching kids to ski, as well as teaching individuals with disabilities how to ski on sit skis and different kinds of equipment. And when we had some of our first fall announcement following the Izzy Dog acquisition and leasing of the property, it was amazing The different types and ages and generations of ages of folks who came up to the mountain and said, This is so amazing. My grandkids, my kids, I learned how to ski or use the outdoors on this mountain. And so it has a real legacy in current history as well as our indigenous history. So very exciting, such.


Juanita Vero: [00:11:28] A unique user experience. When you say park, I think it conjures up images of manicured soccer fields. And this is very, very different. Yeah. Say more about the the programs that are available.


Donna Gaukler: [00:11:40] The single most developed use on the site right now is for mountain biking. We in in the Missoula area do not have very much at all for purpose built mountain bike trails. People will go to places like Copper City. The whitefish trails up around the Whitefish bike retreat. They'll go to Helena for the trails built on prickly pear land trust lands. But purpose built mountain bike trails allow people who might range from what's called cross country and enduro biking to downhill, riding an opportunity for a place that works for them. And so you have trails like Hello Kitty with high berms and jumps that really provide an experience unique to them. It's not any different than thinking about a place like Mobash Skate Park. [00:12:24] For a skateboarder, you need certain specialized facilities. But what's neat about Marshall and a lot of people might not realize is how many of our summer camp programs from Parks and Recreation Missoula, Outdoor Learning, Montana Natural History Center and other organizations are able to take so many kids up there for their first backcountry overnight adventure. [00:12:46] We're so fortunate to be surrounded by Forest Service lands or to contain so many Forest Service lands across Missoula County. But the permits available on those lands are very limited, meaning even though we're surrounded by public land, we may not always have access to teach skills, to address a growing population, to preserve particular areas for habitat, like I mentioned, with Missoula phlox or Jumbo elk herds. And so Marshall Mountain provides that there will be a carrying capacity limitation. But when you think about kids having their first overnight experience in a camp, in a tent, out in the so called wilderness, when you think about the number of different programs, for example, a lot of folks don't know how great the birding, wildlife view... Its subalpine and so it feels you mentioned the word park.


Donna Gaukler: [00:13:33] We encourage people to also think it's like a blend of heavy use, like a manicured park can receive but views and feel like a glacier national park. The bear grass, the huckleberries up there are amazing. The views are amazing. It is a different winter and it's a different ecosystem than we find right down on the valley floor. And so when you put all those things together, purpose built trails, facilities specific for users of all types to experience, how do you recreate in the mountains successfully? How do I, as a person of color who's not always expected, if you will, in the backcountry, how do I gain access to this place where I feel safe, where it's relatively easy access transportation wise? You think about the fact that there's literally mountain line goes past the base of the entrance road that we're looking countywide to build a trail that takes you right there. You can go over the saddle trail of Mount Jumbo and bike to Marshall Mountain. So there's all these opportunities to allow our population, which we totally expect to grow as it did during the pandemic. And with climate change, where do we continue to provide that unique experience we all love about Missoula, which is easy access, super easy access to our outdoor places.


Juanita Vero: [00:14:45] And then also with that super easy access comes some responsibility and awareness and self control. How do we think about that?


Donna Gaukler: [00:14:53] I think that's one of the great things about Marshall Mountain as a park and with recreation programs designed specific for that and give you an example of this is just an anecdotal story. I'm an average mountain biker and I was biking at Copper City, it's between Butte and Bozeman, and I noticed this young five year old girl riding up this rock bed. And I was just like, wow, she's good. And then I noticed that the the young girl and the boy had these really great bike etiquette manners. And I stopped and I said, Where are you guys from? They said, Missoula. I said, Did you participate in Zootown Derailleurs? And they said, Yeah. And I, I've seen that over and over and I use that example. It is a parks and Rec program and not that it's perfect, but when we have opportunity to teach people the etiquette of outdoor use, the low impact, the leave no trace the respect every user. We are building stewards of our future and we are building young people to become super respectful of other populations and others needs. And I think those are the kinds of skills we teach through recreation is just lifetime skills, successful use of recreation, respect of others, respect of place.


Chet Crowser: [00:16:03] I would just add to that, [00:16:04] I think there's always conversations when you have a place like Marshall where you have great connectivity, great wildlife habitat. We hear a lot. How do you blend this huge amount of dense recreational activity with these great resource values? And probably biased because it's a bit of the professional background, but that is recreation management and I think Donna described that really well. There are all sorts of leave no trace principles that are activity specific, that are geared to describe and inform and educate recreational users on the kinds of ethic and etiquette that they can exhibit, they can practice when they're doing those activities to help for the experience everyone is engaged in, but also then minimize those impacts to the resource. [00:16:45] And Donna mentioned Glacier earlier. I mean, you don't have to look very hard to see the congestion and the number of people that are at Glacier. And yet you also equate Glacier with these immense and phenomenal natural resource values. And I'm not necessarily comparing the two, but there is the same sort of principled management opportunity there. And I think in a community like Missoula, that anecdotal story of some young recreators that are out there at other places are going to help convey that message through their own actions. The other piece is that we oftentimes take for granted, whether it be youth or it be adults that are in our community that just don't actively recreate the way that many of us who maybe came to Missoula with this grand, Oh, I love the recreational opportunities that surround the community of Missoula and I engage in it daily. Or it's why I live here. It's why I moved here. Not everyone is in that category. And having places like this where the kind of programing that the city provides to get both youth and adults out there so that they can then have that introduction so they can further engage and expand their interests is really critical. But something we kind of forget about in a community like Missoula that's just naturally sort of geared to think we're all here for some of those same reasons.


Josh Slotnick: [00:17:51] So you said the word management, and I'm glad you brought this up not too long ago. The voters in the city and the voters in the county voluntarily chose to put aside some of their tax money to create a pool of funds that we would use to preserve open land for a whole bunch of reasons. And outdoor recreation was one of them. How about annually keeping this place up when you said management, what's it going to cost to manage this site on an annual basis and how are we going to do it?


Chet Crowser: [00:18:18] The real transparent answer is that it does cost money to maintain these sorts of facilities, amenities for our community. And there's lots of examples of where the community has supported the city and the county in doing just that. And not just city and county. The other agency partners we work with every day and most of the public probably wouldn't know when they transitioned from one particular government jurisdiction to the next. They just want to know that that trail is going to take them to where they want to be and the scenery looks great and the experience was great. Et cetera. We are working right now through recommendations that we got as part of the conceptual master planning effort from that consultant firm, as well as with the city, to look at what we're doing in our community currently around expenditures for specific creation management needs to pull together what we think those numbers will look like. There's always some unknowns when you're acquiring a property, especially like this, where you're transitioning from what has an old previous winter recreation infrastructure and hasn't been used, at least in a truly public managed, public owned access situation. So we know as we go in, we're going to have to address some safety issues. We're going to have to take on some new steps in terms of management. We're going to have some infrastructure needs and facility needs to help accommodate the kind of programing that the city has been so successful with up there.


Chet Crowser: [00:19:33] So we're working through that process right now with the city, and we'll also be having some progress on an interlocal to help define our relationship around doing that. But the concept being that the city and county would come together to manage for the costs that are associated with that. Together, the county would take on the lion's share of the day to day recreation management responsibilities. So that's your daily maintenance operations, working with groups that might need permits, other special events. Et cetera. And the city would be taking on all of their programing activity and continuing to provide that connection for folks up to marshal and then working both jointly in terms of making sure that. The kinds of things we're doing up there are in line with the requirements of, say, bond funding and the other things. Our jurisdictions both will have a collaborative and cooperative role there, and then we'll define that in an interlocal and we'll also try to identify the more of the specifics of the costs that are associated. And those will be coming forward to the public here very soon. As we wrap up some of the more of those due diligence components.


Juanita Vero: [00:20:30] When you say very soon, what is the realistic timeline?


Chet Crowser: [00:20:32] You know, we just had our joint city and county open space meetings, and that recommendation coming out of that joint meeting was yes to using open space bonds for the project, just as if you were buying a home or some other piece of property. You know, you go through each various step at a time. And so we're now into a phase of what I'll call due diligence, not only just for the acquisition of the property, so appraisals and all of those sorts of things, but also then really taking a hard look at what this partnership agreement would look like and how do we fund it and what are those costs we'll be moving through into the fall for some final decision making on that. So timeline of a couple, 2 or 3 months really is what we're looking at in terms of trying to put the details to that. And then we'll also have finalization of the conceptual master plan to package all of this together, which really uses all of the public engagement and support that we've heard from folks. Certainly there is concern out there, but overwhelmingly you hear support from folks about this particular project and all of that detail will come through as those due diligence tasks are kind of checked off the list.


Juanita Vero: [00:21:32] Do you know hard costs, right of purchase price or... 


Chet Crowser: [00:21:35] So the value, I guess, or the cost is right around $3.8 million. So that's kind of a ballpark there. And then we know that we'll have some donation from those landowners that we talked about earlier. That's going to be we're thinking somewhere a little over $800,000. So that brings it down to kind of a $3 million fund raising, if you will need that the city and county have been working on. So we just talked about the city county open space piece of that. And that was a request that staff took forward at 1 million from the city and 1 million from the county. They've at least made the recommendation moving forward that that request be considered by the governing bodies. So county commission and city council on the city side. And so then if you if you're doing the math there, we still have a little bit of work that we would need to do. We have grants that we've applied for. So we have one significant one that's a $600,000 ask. That's a federal grant we feel pretty good about. We think that we've got a pretty good chance at that one. We have had a $50,000 EPA Brownsfield commitment that helped us do some initial site inventory just for some of the initial health concerns as their lead asbestos, those sorts of things on site. And then we have a partner group, Friends of Marshall Mountain, who has helped with another grant that's around $50,000. That one continues to move through the process. So we're keeping our fingers crossed there. And then we'll continue to look at any other number of resources that are out there. Grant opportunities. Et cetera. The whole concept here really is to be creative and use partnerships to meet the needs of the community and the folks who want to recreate at Marshall Mountain without it taxing literally and kind of figuratively our community. Right? We want to do so in a sustainable way and steward those public resources.


Josh Slotnick: [00:23:14] You mentioned Friends of Marshall Mountain. What other roles is that group going to play?


Donna Gaukler: [00:23:17] Friends of Marshall Mountain have been involved for some time now and their role is multifold. They helped us fund the original conceptual master plan so they had no role or authority in what the plan outcome would be just in funding the public process. And that public process, interesting brought in more public participation than any other single process to date. Hosted on Engage Missoula, which says a lot. And then they have friends of Marshall Mountain have offered to continue towards a capital campaign program to help with improvements. And so when when Chet talks about the numbers, really we are really, truly looking at acquisition due diligence costs related to acquisition, some initial pretty minor improvements, but to make sure the facilities are safe for use and actually accessible. And when I talk about accessible by a majority of the population so that the trails come down to the trailheads and the parking areas are the kinds of things that we're trying to achieve. Friends of Marshall Mountain, I think will be there some iteration or form for some time, as we have found with most of the facilities over the years of this nature.


Donna Gaukler: [00:24:26] MTB, is a mountain bike Missoula, as party to friends of Marshall Mountain and they've been maintaining and continuing to maintain the trails at a very small fraction of the cost that it would be to the city or the county to bring in outside sources or probably even to do that work themselves. I like the specific detailed trail work on Marshall Mountain akin to the city working with Friends of Pine View Ice to provide natural ice, the ability of our partner groups and volunteer groups and what they can bring as resources to these kinds of projects is amazing. I think the other thing that's unique to Marshall Mount in our current environment around importance of climate and healthy built environments and core values around both city and county growth policy work. I suspect that there will continue to be partnerships, access to grant funding to help us with these kinds of things. Nevertheless, I completely agree with Chet Lands don't maintain themselves. It does take some resources to do that. But the payback is plentiful because a little bit of maintenance gets you a whole lot of use without concern for degradation.


Josh Slotnick: [00:25:33] Talking about a 100-year-plus tradition of Missoulians recreating in Marshall Mountain.


Donna Gaukler: [00:25:39] You know, it's so unique, open space and especially, well, any kind of protection of open space. But fee simple acquisition of open space in this county wide has always been opportunistic.


Josh Slotnick: [00:25:50] How else could it be?


Donna Gaukler: [00:25:51] You know, there are opportunities we just can't pass up when we know for a fact we are growing. And one of the best ways we can preserve what we all love most about this place is to be really diligent and intentional about what we protect, what uses those protections are intended to provide. So we've got.


Josh Slotnick: [00:26:11] A lot of moving parts here friends, group, three different parcels, three different owners, two governments, two different open space processes, and a capital campaign with a public face. How would someone kind of keep up with this story and know where where the greater we are at any time? How are people going to know what's happening?


Chet Crowser: [00:26:30] They can go to and there is also some staff contacts on that website as well. So if they need to get a hold of someone, it talks about who's working on the project and some specific contact info there too.


Juanita Vero: [00:26:40] Fantastic. And we have to wrap up. But before we go, what's your favorite memory of Marshall Mountain? Each of you.


Chet Crowser: [00:26:47] Donna, probably has better ones. I wasn't I didn't live in Missoula when the ski area was functioning, so I don't have those minor through my kids. Having taken part in some of the programing that the city has offered,.


Juanita Vero: [00:26:58] What were some of the programs?


Chet Crowser: [00:26:59] The mountain biking. Yeah, yeah.


Juanita Vero: [00:27:01] And what was great about it? What was your favorite part about it?


Chet Crowser: [00:27:03] It's fun to see my kids out there doing stuff and taking advantage of the opportunities that they had. And I'm not a mountain biker, so I wouldn't have been able to provide that for them. But it was great. Hearing the stories and staff does a great job. He had a couple good wipe outs, which is always part of the experience and loved it. I mean, it just it helps you see through your own real world examples and your own family. Like this stuff is really important and provides a really cool opportunity. But it's different when you experience it than when you hear other people talk about it. The one thing that's just an anecdote, which I've kind of I've had fun with, as we've talked about. Marshall Is there some sort of Internet fodder around when the Beastie Boys played here long ago on one of their first tours in Missoula and there's a photo of them up at Marshall and supposedly they went skiing at Marshall. So there's a little bit of an interesting connection to pop culture for you.


Juanita Vero: [00:27:50] All right. How about you, Donna? Were you there when Beastie Boys played?


Donna Gaukler: [00:27:53] I missed the Beastie Boys, but I did get to ski that winter 95, 96, when we had the record snowfall. The powder was thick. And then the last couple of years that Marshall was open, you could go up and ski for two hours for I think it was 7 or $10. And so we would go up Saturday mornings and ski and then leave on mountain bike rides. And I was just like, Wow, is this perfect or what? Yeah, it's a great place with a lot of fond memories for so many of our residents countywide.


Juanita Vero: [00:28:23] What about you, Josh?


Josh Slotnick: [00:28:24] Oh, I'm glad you asked me because I'm bursting with this. So I graduated from college here at the U of M and myself and other people and my friend group. We had our college graduation party at Marshall Mountain, and a mere nine years later, I was there with my five year old son and he was learning to ski on the bunny hill.


Juanita Vero: [00:28:42] Oh, that's awesome. Sunset School, which is a tiny school that I went to. We had between 1 and 10 students, and by the time I was a board member, we would once a week go ski at Marshall. And it was just amazing because we had so few students. We just throw them in our car and head on up there and it was the best to watch kids link turns and and have that opportunity because we're such a small rural school so far out. And these kids would have never had the opportunity to play in the snow like that and have a winter recreation experience. And it was really special that we were able to do that. And then, yeah, when it closed, we had to schlep them over to Discovery, which was great, but it was just so much easier. There's just something special about Marshall. Well, again, before we close more storytelling here, our wisdom seeking from us, what's a good book or nugget that you've come across that you want to share with listeners? Could be a podcast. Yeah. Any little mantra.


Josh Slotnick: [00:29:35] Thing you've run into recently where he thought that was a good idea or that was a smart way to say that.


Chet Crowser: [00:29:40] So here's mine. I'll admit my summer has been so hectic and busy. I have not been a reader this summer. So I was I was thinking, what have I read? And that's okay because I've been out doing things outside and enjoying stuff with my family. But I was recently handed a book from Mr. Slotnick that is a new book of his, If Only, some poems that I'm dying to dive into. It was like a day ago that he handed me this. So this is my transition back into doing a little bit of reading. Post a hectic summer.


Juanita Vero: [00:30:06] Yeah. Everyone in Missoula County should get a copy of If Only. It's fantastic.


Donna Gaukler: [00:30:11] Yeah, No doubt. You know, the last book I read was San Fran-sicko, which is about what we sometimes get wrong about taking care of unhoused individuals. And I think the thing to remember is we're all experiencing life at different in a different way, different place and different time. And I want to remember that there are many in our community that need us badly, and we have to pay attention to that. But at the same time, if we have to also look at our future and these are generational decisions. And the more I think about the challenges we see before us today, whether it's people angry around politics, things that came out of the pandemic with people having more resources than they've ever had or less resources than they've ever had. When we do things like these open space programs, this is about prevention. This is about the stuff that makes a huge difference up front. And at the end of the day, it costs significantly less than anything that we could do after the fact. And so just the constant reminder that prevention is planning ahead and thinking generationally is not something we do so well in our society today. And if we could do more of that, I can't help but believe we will have a better society, a better place tomorrow.


Josh Slotnick: [00:31:22] That's that's good stuff. Donna, thanks. Thanks.


Juanita Vero: [00:31:24] Yeah. Thank you all. Good way to wrap it up. Nice job.


Josh Slotnick: [00:31:28] Thank you, everybody, for listening. And we'll see you next time. Thanks for listening to the Tip of the Spear podcast. If you enjoy these conversations, it would mean a lot if you would rate and review the show on whichever podcast app you like. And if you know a friend who would like to keep up with what's happening in local government, be sure to recommend this podcast to them. The Tip of the Spear podcast is made possible with support from Mcad, better known as Missoula Community Access Television and our staff in the Missoula County Communications Division. If you have a question or topic you'd like us to address on a future episode, email it to And to find other ways to stay up to date with what's happening at Missoula County, go to And thanks for listening.