Peek into a SITES project: Fort Missoula Regional Park

Published on
27 Jul 2023
Garrick Swanson
A sign outside a park's front gate

Feature image: The SITES Silver Fort Missoula Regional Park in Missoula, Montana. Image credit: B. Goodrich, courtesy of City of Missoula Parks and Recreation.

The SITES Silver Fort Missoula Regional Park (FMRP) was envisioned as a destination to serve the greater Missoula, Montana, county and region. The 156-acre park, opened in 2018, is the first SITES-certified project in Montana. The character of and programming at FMRP reflect community-driven values and interests, including the need to

  • Protect and enhance unique historic values.
  • Encompass as many diverse activities as possible.
  • Serve both disabled and nondisabled visitors, as well as people of all ages and income groups.
  • Ensure park planning and construction are done with environmental sensitivity.
  • Balance developed parkland and undeveloped parkland to support wildlife and open space.
  • Maintain natural views and vistas.
  • Be sensitive to surrounding neighborhoods.

Park amenities

The park is located within the Fort Missoula Historic District, adjacent to the original Fort Missoula, which was established in 1877 by the U.S. Army. Fort Missoula’s history is preserved for future generations by the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula and throughout FMRP, including through a 0.5-mile interpretive loop with trail connections to the museum. The park fosters a strong sense of stewardship, sustainability and quality of life through the preservation of this historic and cultural landscape and education about its history.

FMRP features a large events pavilion, three picnic shelters, 10 multisport turf fields, a synthetic multiuse turf field, seven softball diamonds, full-service concessions, eight tennis courts and 22 pickleball courts. The park includes three playgrounds, an outdoor fitness center with nine workout stations, over 5 miles of trails, restrooms, parking and a commons area with basketball courts, lawn volleyball, hammocks and oversize yard games.

A playground seen across a wide lawn

Fort Missoula Regional Park offers many fun outdoor opportunities, including three playgrounds. Photo by Garrick Swanson, courtesy of City of Missoula Parks and Recreation.


According to Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler, FMRP was constructed using nationally recognized standards for safety and environmental sustainability, from energy-efficient lighting, resource-saving irrigation systems, soil restoration and innovative stormwater treatment to the use of local contractors and locally sourced materials. FMRP’s SITES Silver certification demonstrates the city and county’s commitment to a sustainable system of parks, trails and open space that protect diverse habitats.

Key sustainability efforts at the park included:

  • Water: The efficient irrigation system conserves water by automatically adjusting irrigation rates with the use of rain and soil sensors. Bioswales, instead of concrete gutters and storm sewers, filter stormwater runoff.
  • Healthy soils: Soil restoration is the park's foundation for sustainability and resilience. The park includes 30 acres of revegetated soils, 24.7 acres of restored soils, 40.2 acres of athletic and sports fields, and 0.8 acres of bioswales.
  • Local contractors and locally sourced materials: Park construction supported approximately 350 construction jobs, and nearly all 150 subcontractors were based in western Montana. Many of the materials for construction were locally sourced, including recycled plastic bottles from Yellowstone National Park for the synthetic turf, locally salvaged timber for park shelters and local river stones.
  • Community-defined values: The park's design and construction were based on community-defined values. Through an extensive public process, local residents and the design team developed principles that guided the whole renovation.

The mission behind the City of Missoula Parks and Recreation is to ensure every Missoula neighborhood is well-served with parks and open space, recreation facilities, and bicycle and pedestrian access to the great outdoors. A cornerstone of quality recreation and open space is stewardship of the built and natural environment.

“SITES principles provided a comprehensive framework for park design, construction, operations and management that will continue to benefit the environment, our local and regional economies, and our community’s health and well-being by connecting people to nature, to their communities and to each other,” said Gaukler.

Project team

The project team included the following:

  • Owner: City of Missoula and Missoula County
  • Construction manager: Jackson Contractor Group, Inc.
  • Landscape architect and civil engineer: The Land Group, Inc.
  • Civil engineer—survey: DJ & A, PC
  • Architect: Oz Architecture
  • Electrical, mechanical, and plumbing: Associate Construction Engineering, Inc.
  • Irrigation: Baer Design Group, LLC

Learn more about Fort Missoula