Story Mill Park rendering

A rendering of Story Mill Park after construction is complete.

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Six years after plans began to set aside 60 acres in northeast Bozeman for play and nature, construction started Tuesday on the city’s future Story Mill Community Park.

Maddy Pope with the Trust for Public Land walked through a muddy field near where Bozeman Creek splits from the East Gallatin River and described the land’s future.

She outlined plans for a natural amphitheater that can seat up to 200 people next to a 40-foot-long climbing wall; a path that winds along the East Gallatin River and opens to a 40-acre nature sanctuary; a space that can act as grounds for summer festivals or a quiet spot for afternoon walks; and a trail through a food forest that leads to a garden.

“There hasn’t been a park like this before in Bozeman,” Pope said.

Local contractor Langlas and Associates will lead the construction that will take most of 2018. The park’s main pieces like its trail system, scattered playgrounds and space for events will go up this year and open by winter.

Landscaping and the last details of the space are scheduled to wrap up in the spring of 2019.

“We have truly exceptional park designs,” said Mitch Overton, director of Bozeman Parks and Recreation. “Now, with construction beginning, we are building a flagship community park.”

Late last year, the Trust for Public Land donated the former Boys & Girls Club building off Bridger Drive to Bozeman to create a new base for the city’s recreation division and a community center at the edge of the park. That space could be open as early as June once a remodel is complete.

Molly Pickall, campaign director for The Trust for Public Land, said creating the public park is a $16.1 million effort. That money is going toward things like restoring and maintaining the land, hosting community engagement events to get locals’ input and working through site plan reviews.

“It sounds cliche, but this really is the crown jewel,” Pickall said. “It’s by Bozeman and for Bozeman and is a reflection of what people value.”

So far, the nonprofit has been able to pull a lot of the money needed to polish that jewel.

Bozeman chipped in $4.5 million in public money from a 2012 trails, open space and parks bond.

The Trust for Public Lands raised another $10.4 million from donors.

But the group’s still missing a chunk of money. The Trust for Public Land has until June 30 to raise $665,000 to ensure construction doesn’t pause before the project’s done.

“That’s about 5 percent left of what we need, but we have 11 weeks to do that, so it’s urgent,” Pickall said.

Right now, a lot of the work happening to make the park plans tangible are largely unseen — builders are leveling the ground and will begin laying out its infrastructure.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pope described that parts of the park that will have to wait for construction for the end of birds’ nesting season. She said while there’s a lot left to do, the project has already gone a long way, including a two year restoration of the site’s wetlands and wildlife habitat.

“And for people who have heard the park was coming, who were part of workshops years ago, yes, this really is coming together,” Pope said.

To learn more about the park or to donate, visit to https://support.tpl.org/campaign/campaign-for-story-mill-community-park/c38219.

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Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2628. Follow her on Twitter @K_Hought.

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