The formation of a Madison Valley Parks and Recreation District is once again back on the table as a public scoping meeting to discuss the plan is scheduled for Sept. 6.
A Madison Valley parks district could be a way to coordinate groups focused on recreational activities in the Madison Valley, said meeting organizer Kevin Germain.
“After looking at all these different groups that are just doing their own things, I feel there is a need to have some consolidated group that is organizing and coordinating all the parks and recreation activities in the valley,” Germain said.
The meeting will be a chance for the public to hear the history of the efforts to form a parks and recreation district in the Madison Valley, along with an opportunity to share ideas or concerns about moving forward with the idea.
“It’s completely a scoping meeting to see if there’s interest in pursuing this any further,” Germain said.
Two years ago, Madison County Commissioners were ready to put the formation of a Madison Valley Parks and Recreation District and a supporting mill levy before voters. However, a group of Big Sky residents representing Madison County landowners in the Big Sky area resisted the plan. They felt their inclusion in a parks district focused on the Madison Valley was unfair.
Ultimately, commissioners discovered a Big Sky Parks District already existed within the boundary of the proposed parks and recreation district and the plan was scrapped.
Since then, Big Sky residents in both Madison and Gallatin County have formed their own parks and recreation district.
But nothing further has happened with pursuing a Madison Valley Parks and Recreation District until now.
Madison County Commissioner Jim Hart has always felt that a Madison Valley Parks District was a good idea.
“I thought it was a good idea before, but there were some legitimate concerns from Big Sky folks that they needed their own,” Hart said.
Currently there are parks and recreation districts in Sheridan and Twin Bridges. The money raised in those districts goes to support things like the Sheridan Swimming Pool and parks and trails in Twin Bridges, he said.
With the numerous recreational activities in the Ennis area, a parks and recreation district could be very useful, Hart said referring to the Madison Meadows Golf Course, Madison Byways and Madison Valley Aquatic Center project.
For Germain, the concept is simple: organized and developed recreation in a community helps attract and keep young families, which are vital to a community like Ennis.
“How do you retain young people and young families in our communities? It’s through parks and trails,” he said.
Ennis is a sportsman’s paradise with world-class fly fishing and hunting, but organized events and locations that offer recreation for the entire family are limited. A parks and recreation district could help coordinate and organize efforts for a variety of projects and help find bigger and more stable funding sources, Germain said.
“By pooling resources we may be able to go after bigger and better funding opportunities,” he said.
Ultimately, it’s about efficiency.
“Everyone is focused on their unique little project and nobody is looking at the whole playing field,” Germain said.
But community support is important to moving forward, Hart said.
“We want people to be informed and answer a number of questions before we make a decision on whether we want to go to the voters or not,” he said.
The scoping meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Ennis Fire Hall.