Black bears, deer and elk are known to wander amid ponderosa pine and Douglas fir on Mount Jumbo's eastern flank. With the city's recent acquisition of more land on the far side of the mountain, the public is ensured access, too.
"You could hike from the southern base of the mountain adjacent to I-90 up the backbone and all the way to the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area," says Missoula's Open Space Program Manager Jackie Corday. "That's pretty amazing."
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Trust for Public Land purchased the 220-acre Mount Jumbo property from Plum Creek Timber Co. as part of the Montana Legacy Project, which preserves about 310,000 acres of former timberlands in Missoula, Lake and Mineral counties. TNC was in the process of selling pieces of the land back to conservation-minded public and private entities when Missoula stepped up to offer $220,000 from its municipal open space bond for the Mount Jumbo land, says TNC Outreach Director Chris Bryant.
"We're very happy the city is doing it," Bryant says. "They're great partners."
Had the city not purchased the property, it could have ended up in private hands. "They could have closed off access," Corday says.
Mount Jumbo is a cornerstone of open space on the eastern edge of the Missoula Valley, long coveted by land managers and recreational enthusiasts. The city's largest open space purchase to date preserved 1,465 acres on Jumbo in 1996 for $3.3 million. The new acquisition brings the tally to more than 1,800 acres.
To access the parcel, start at the Lincoln Hills trailhead and travel northeast on Saddle Road just over one mile to a blue metal cattle gate. The new property begins there and continues east to Marshall Canyon Road.
The deal was officially sealed in April. Mayor John Engen, members of the Open Space Advisory Committee and TNC staff will formally unveil the property in a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, July 15, at 11 a.m.