Partnerships lead to a new future for Fort Owen



STEVENSVILLE – On the hottest day of the year, people who have teamed up to restore one of Montana’s most historic places are remembered not only a legacy, but a bit of the pioneering conditions as well.

Leaders from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the State Parks Foundation and the Friends of Fort Owen gather at the newly redesigned site north of Stevensville, marking the completion of the first phase of change.

These include a new paved access road, better parking and better signage. Everything to improve the visitor experience in the small park, but also to be a better neighbor for the surrounding Fort Owen Ranch. Owner Myla Yahraus, who bought the ranch three years ago, cooperated with the expansion, recognizing the importance of the park. FWP staff praised his thoughtfulness and inspiration.

“So that it can be managed easily. So that it can be managed in a way that a neighbor can bear some of the impacts of recreation, as well as some of that tourism and that interest,” said Randy Arnold, FWP Regional Supervisor. “But for me, it’s not over, we’ve solved it. It’s just the start of a new trajectory.”

Coby Gierke, executive director of the Montana State Parks Foundation, says the changes are a prime example of what can happen when partnerships are forged.

“We wanted to preserve what is here and protect these historic assets, Montana’s oldest permanently inhabited space. And we wanted to provide better access. So we achieved those goals and we really wanted to create a long-term sustainable solution for ourselves and the private owner next door. “

These changes will provide a buffer zone between park visitors and ranch operations.

“It feels good to be able to kind of celebrate this place now and encourage people to come here,” Loren Flynn, Area 2 FWP park manager told me. haven’t been able to do it for a long time, so it looks like a win today. ”

Ahead, efforts to restore the remaining adobe walls of the old barracks building and steps to improve historical exhibits, telling not only the story of John Owen and the Bitterroot, but the contributions of the Salish tribe and others in this first Montana community. And also by researching artifacts collected from the site over the years.

The park opens to the public Thursday.


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