Q: Does the County Plan to divest of Drew Creek Park?
A: The County has no immediate plans to pursue divestment of the park. Exploring the community’s interest in divesting of the park originated from the 2012 Missoula County Parks and Trails Master Plan. The inquiry sought to determine if there was community support leading towards an opportunity to raise capital through the sale of Drew Creek Park, for use in developing a community park close to town. The Board of County Commissioners see no immediate opportunity with which to fulfill the goal in the Master Plan for park development in Seeley Lake. Consequently, the County has chosen to defer action on divestment at this time. - Updated March 14, 2017
Regarding the Park History
Q: Who owns Drew Creek Park? What does this mean in terms of selling the park?
A: The parcel was dedicated as a park through the recording of the Double Arrow Ranch Phase III plat in June of 1972. As stated in the Certificate of Dedication, “all lands in streets, roads, and parks” are “dedicated, donated and granted to the use of the public forever.” Montana law states that lands dedicated to the public for park or playground purposes are considered county lands. However, the law also states that a board of county commissioners can classify county-owned land for retention or disposal so that county-owned lands are “used in the best interests of the county for the public benefit and welfare.”
Q: Was the Drew Creek park parcel a requirement of subdivision platting or other residential development laws for maintaining open space?
A: No. The filing of the Double Arrow Ranch Phase III plat pre-dates the Montana Subdivision Platting Act that requires major subdivisions to set aside park land, common area, or provide cash in lieu of land dedication.
Q: What does the existing public easement across the park specify?
A: Drew Creek Park was dedicated “subject to a 60 foot wide access easement at an undetermined location for access to private and public lands adjoining [Double Arrow Ranch Phase III] on the east.” This recorded statement guarantees public access through the parcel, via the existing roadway, from the subdivision to the US Forest Service land directly adjacent to the subdivision.
Regarding the Sale Process
Q: If the County were to sell the park, what are the steps of the sale process?
A: The sale of the park must follow the steps defined by Montana law (MCA 7-16-2324) for the sale, lease or exchange of dedicated park lands.
Q: Does the County have a buyer identified for the park parcel?
A: No. Montana law requires the County to sell the park through a public auction for no less than the appraised value. Any entity with the highest bid could become the owner of the parcel.
Q: How much is the park parcel currently worth?
A: The park parcel was appraised in August and is valued at $200,000.
Q: How long would the sale process take?
A: The process to sell the park could take several months to complete.
Q: What sites in Seeley Lake have been identified for potential development of a new park?
A: At this time no one particular site has been identified. The ideal site would be readily accessible to the Seeley Lake Community and visitors, be suitable for various recreation activities and events, offer connectivity with other parks and trails, and have general support from community members.
Q: If the park is sold, what would the County do to ensure that Drew Creek as a natural resource would not be negatively impacted by any future development?
A: If the park parcel were to be sold, there is a possibility that development could occur on the site. The extent of development would be subject to any relevant federal and state regulations, in addition to the subdivision covenants. The Montana Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act of 1975 is inclusive of Drew Creek. This means that there is a permitting process through Missoula Conservation District for any activity that may occur within the bed or near the banks of the creek.
Q: Could the park parcel be placed under a conservation easement with restrictions on future development?
A: Placing a conservation easement on the parcel is one possible outcome. For this to happen, an entity would need to first purchase the property and then pursue the establishment of a conservation easement. More information on undertaking the process of establishing a conservation easement can be found on the Land Trust Alliance website.
Q: Could the US Forest Service or another government land management agency acquire the property through sale or trade?
A: Yes. Thus far, the Forest Service conveyed that the park would not be a parcel they would consider for acquisition because it is not an inholding of the Horseshoe West Fuels Reduction and Restoration management area.
Q: Could the park be designated as common area for the Double Arrow Ranch Subdivision? Or, could it be swapped for another parcel in the subdivision?
A: By law, the park could not be directly transferred to Double Arrow Ranch Land Owners Association, nor any other private entity. The Land Owners Association could however, purchase the park at auction and then designate it common area. The law does allow for a land exchange arrangement for parcels of approximately equal value.
New Park Development
Q: Does the County have the capacity to plan, develop, and maintain a new park in Seeley Lake?
A: In the past year, the County’s Parks, Trails, and Open Lands Program gained new staff members to assist with tasks related to parks planning and development. At present, the Program does not have dedicated maintenance staff but instead relies on formalized agreements with partner groups to keep parks maintained. The Lions Clearwater Park located along Cedar Lane in Seeley Lake is one such example of a successful maintenance partnership between the County and a citizen group.
Q: Could funds from the Parks and Trails Bond of 2014 be used in the acquisition or development of a new park?
A: No, these funds were allocated in the bond statement for Fort Missoula Regional Park, trail construction, and renovations to pre-identified existing parks.
Q: How can the Seeley Lake Community be assured that proceeds from the sale will be reinvested in Seeley Lake?
A: The proposal to sell Drew Creek Park and acquire a more accessible parcel is rooted to the 2012 Parks and Trails Master Plan. Additionally, the County’s Parks, Trails, and Open Lands Program has policies in place to direct funding received from subdivision cash in lieu donations back to that area. The proceeds from Drew Creek Park would adhere to these same policies.
Q: What recreation sites and projects in Seeley has the County previously helped finance?
A: The Matching Grant Program is the main avenue for allocating funds to recreation related projects throughout the County. Since 2005, funding awards for community-led projects have totaled $42,500. This amount when matched by volunteer labor, in-kind material donations, and cash has exceeded $80,000 in capital improvement and maintenance projects. Among the more recent projects include additions and improvements to the Lions Clearwater Park, the Sullivan Community Hall, and the Highway 83 trail. Please contact John Stegmaier for a full list of projects and award amounts.