Community Invited to Plan New Park for Story Mill Land

The Trust for Public Land and American Bank announced today they have reached an agreement that could transform a 61-acre property near the old Story Mill in the northeast section of Bozeman into a new city park.

Five years ago, the land was planned for a large development of 1,200 residences along with commercial development, but those plans collapsed into bankruptcy in the economic recession and American Bank foreclosed on the property. The Trust for Public Land has secured an option to buy it and plans to acquire it to prevent it from being developed.

“We are excited to work with the community to protect this wonderful place,” said Deb Love, Northern Rockies Director of The Trust for Public Land.  “This is one of the largest pieces of open land in the city.  We want people to weigh in on what they want to see in a Story Mill park, and we’re planning our first public workshop next February to begin that conversation.”

“American Bank is excited about this transaction and what it offers the Bozeman community,” said the Bank’s president, Gordon Johnson.  “Over the last two years the Bank has spent a good deal of time and resources cleaning up what had become a blight on the community. We are very pleased to have entered into this agreement with The Trust for Public Land. While the Bank had several opportunities to sell the site to others, in pieces, the plan they presented to us was the only one that maximizes the value of the property for the community.”

The property is just west of the old Story Mill, which was founded in 1885 by Nelson Story and once the city’s largest employer.  Two railroad lines ran near it and the land also contained a cattle stockyard and slaughterhouse.

“I am so impressed with the vision from The Trust for Public Land regarding the Story Mill property,” said Mitch Overton, City Parks and Recreation Director. “ When I look at this property, I see enhancement of trail corridors, stream and water quality protection of two major tributaries of the East Gallatin River, protection of a significant urban wetland property, and a great opportunity for environmental education.  All of this occurs on 61 acres within City limits.  This is unlike anything currently offered within the city and has the potential to become a flagship destination for Bozeman.” 

“The Greater Gallatin Watershed Council (GGWC) is excited to be a part of the Story Mill project.  We have been looking for wetlands projects that would result in real, direct improvements in water quality,” said Patrick Byorth, Vice-Chair, Greater Gallatin Watershed Council. “The Story Mill wetlands will filter pollutants before they get to the East Gallatin and directly reduce the amount of fine sediments in the river.”

The property includes the Story Mill Spur Trail, which connects downtown Bozeman to north-side destinations like the East Gallatin Recreation Area, and will someday link to the “M” and Drinking Horse Mountain trails.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our community,” said Penelope Pierce, Executive Director of the Gallatin Valley Land Trust. “Not only could it help the water quality and habitat of the East Gallatin River – a blue ribbon fishery – it could provide exceptional outdoor recreational opportunities, help us connect trails for transportation and recreation on the north end of Bozeman, and provide an important nexus in Bozeman’s park system and ‘Main Street to the Mountains’ trail system.”

Funding for the new park could come from the parks and trails bond pending citizen advisory board and city approval and would be matched by private and public donations for park development and improvements.  The Trust for Public Land is also exploring the potential for private redevelopment on the site of the former Bridger View Trailer Park, including affordable residential housing.

“As a neighbor to the Story Mill property, we are very excited by The Trust for Public Land’s efforts to revitalize the site,” said Jeanne Quinn-Bucher, Chief Professional Officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Montana. “A new park will be a great complement to our programs and benefit youth and their families all across the community. We also endorse the idea of returning affordable residential housing to the old trailer court portion of the site.”

Residents are being asked to take part in a public opinion poll.

Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than 34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.