Construction work will begin on Monday for improvements to access the West Broadway Island which is owned by the City of Missoula.

The island area will include a new pedestrian bridge, along with improvements to the utility bridge located at the end of Burton Street and there will also be a new pedestrian trail between the two bridges.

Assistant Director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, Chris Behan said the area will still retain its wild feel, however, it is a place where transients have traditionally camped.

“As long as I can remember, there have always been transients camped out there,” said Behan. “It’s only in the last few years that those folks have included those who are pretty aggressive to the general public and others using the area, and the drug use has definitely been escalated. So, we’ve started a cleanup out there, and then we’ll move to the next step which is to eliminate the non native species out there, which makes the area a better riparian habitat for cleaning our aquifer, that’s one recharge area for the river.”

Behan said the cleanup has it much more difficult to hide or camp in the area.

“It is probably one of the higher problem areas for aggressive behavior in the downtown area, and we’re getting to a point where we’ll eventually change that culture,” he said. “We’ll get more of the general public down there using it to walk their dogs and just go hang out. It’s really an unbelievable place. You step out on that area and move out into it, and you don’t feel like you’re in town anymore, you just feel like you’re out in nature, out of town somewhere. It’s so quiet and there are lots of little critters and birds and so on, it’s very nice.”

A press release states ‘The cost of the project is $500,000, funded by Tax Increment Funding through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency. In addition, Hellgate Valley Irrigation Company is contributing $10,000 to the project to repair the south bank of the irrigation canal, making it more functional for irrigation and flood protection. The island is in Urban Renewal District II, located off the 1100 block of West Broadway behind Imagine Nation Brewery and Eagle Watch Estates apartments.’