Who controls the green? 

Anyone strolling near Greenough Park’s main parking lot will likely notice the satellite dish hanging from a large cottonwood tree, seemingly well within park boundaries. But despite the fact that multiple members of the Greenough Park Advisory Committee (GPAC) have been asking Missoula Parks and Recreation to remove this “probably illegal” intrusion for more than a year, the city continues to do nothing about it.

The dish issue speaks to the ongoing debate over a court-ordered survey of the park, a frustrating situation for multiple GPAC members speaking up at the committee’s monthly meeting Oct. 6.

Steve Niday, a Missoula County surveyor, has completed his end of the deal with $20,000 of on-the-ground work. But City Attorney Jim Nugent says that legal “quiet title” vagaries of unknown cost remain, and that no funding exists to complete the task. With no budget to finish, Niday’s work becomes essentially useless in determining who owns what within the park, including the old—and possibly brittle—cottonwood that holds the satellite dish.

This frustrates Kathleen Kennedy, GPAC’s vice-chair, since she feels obliged to fight against the private fences, steps, landscaping “improvements” and satellite dishes that continue to encroach on the public park.

“We are supposed to protect the park against trespass and we haven’t done that,” she says.

According to city documents, GPAC is mandated to help maintain the park via 13 court-ordered points, the first of which is to “resurvey the park.” These points refer to a legal settlement dating to 1955 in which Greenough heirs forced the city to complete the survey and maintain the park’s “natural” state, among other things, in order to maintain ownership. Since GPAC manages Greenough according to these points, committee members are concerned that as long as the city fails to complete the survey, it remains in non-compliance, and the park’s ownership in jeopardy.

To compound matters, Niday and his supervisor are likely retiring within a year, making both eager to see this project completed before moving on—and before the city is potentially sued.

“For proper management of the park, the boundaries should be known,” Niday told the Independent recently. “Should we just wait for the trees to fall and then let the lawyers decide?”
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