For decades the stretch of Bozeman Creek passing through Bogert Park south of downtown Bozeman has been hemmed in, rushing through a narrow channel as it flows north toward the East Gallatin River.

But a $707,000 city restoration project showcased in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, reshaping the stream-bed to include a meander more in keeping with its natural course, has changed that.

The work, the city says, will be a boon to water quality, help manage floods and create better habitat for fish.

“We’re thinking ahead, spending money now, so this stream can be fished by our grandchildren,” said Mayor Carson Taylor.

“It sets an example for other communities like ours, to value the water,” he said.

While natural streams tend to twist and turn as they make their way down a landscape, carving out riffles and pools for stream-dwelling creatures, historic development saw Bozeman Creek hemmed into a straight channel — reinforced with rocks and chunks of broken concrete — to create more space for homes and businesses.

In recent years, though, as water conservation has piqued the interest of community groups and city leaders, groups like the Bozeman Creek Enhancement Committee have looked at ways to set portions of the waterway free. Beyond the aesthetic and environmental upside to restoration, they figure curves can slow down spring floodwaters that occasionally spill over the creek’s banks downstream.

The project also includes a new bridge and an overflow channel, as well as a new swing set in the park’s playground.

The project was paid for with $490,000 from the $15 million trails, open space and parks bond passed by city voters in 2012, according to project manager Carolyn Poissant. It was also supported by $175,000 in state grants and some local donations.

Design work for the project was done by several firms, including Bozeman-based Confluence Consulting and Intrinsik Architecture. Construction was done by Highland Construction Services of Belgrade.

Eric Dietrich can be reached at 406-582-2628 or edietrich@dailychronicle.com. He is on Twitter at @eidietrich.

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