Caras Park construction begins

MISSOULA, Mont. - One of the most popular parks in downtown Missoula is now closed as crews begin work on a major makeover. 

The Caras Park renovations aim to improve capacity and also make the park safer and prettier. 

Some of the big changes are making the park more ADA accessible, expanding the amphitheater and better connecting the river trail to the park. 

The grass hills will be flattened, creating more lawn space and more flexible seating, while still having some concrete benches.

Crews will also expand the river trail right by the park to 18 feet, improving flow where it's often congested during busy events. 

It's Missoula Parks and Recreation's goal to make parks more accessible and because Caras Park is so popular, it became a priority. 

When ADA standards change, the department works to bring parks up to the new standards when making other improvements, Nathan McLeod, park design specialist, explained. 

"It's one of our most popular parks," he said. "Whether or not you live here, people come down here for the farmers market, there's ton of events all summer long. It's a destination for downtown, so tourists come down here and it's been about 30 years since we've done any big updates to the park, so it really needs a face life."

Construction will take place until next spring.

During that time, the amphitheater and grass hill areas will be closed. 

Crews will also have to close part of the trail, but that isn't scheduled until spring. 

The $1.4 million project is funded by the city's Capital Improvement Program and the Missoula Downtown Foundation. 

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