Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - About 20 individuals joined Kevin Davis and his Reserve Street Public Working Group on Tuesday as they celebrated Earth Day by taking a tour of the former Reserve Street Homeless Camp, both picking up leftover trash and enjoying the return of wildlife to the habitat.

I spoke to Davis on Wednesday who said it was gratifying to see the immense changes in the Reserve Street Bridge habitat since the long-time homeless camp was finally removed.

“As part of our advocacy for Missoula's busiest corridor, the Reserve Street corridor, we do return to the Reserve Street Bridge area at least once a year, over the last six years to do a cleanup of that area,” began Davis. “Yesterday was a very successful event, and in the 30 years I've lived in Missoula, it's the healthiest I've seen the area.”

Credit: Kevin Davis
Credit: Kevin Davis

Davis looked back at some of the clean-up days that occurred when the homeless camp was still located near and under the bridge.

“When they were still inhabitants there, some of them would come out of their tents and ask for a trash bag and clean up alongside us, and in doing so we got to hear their stories about what was keeping them in the area and what we could do, or which resources we could direct them to,” he said. “I think it was inspiring for all involved, but yesterday (Tuesday) was certainly inspiring to see how far Missoula has come with restoring that watershed.”

The Montana Department of Transportation erected a high fence and locked gates around the former campsite and is paying Rogers Security Incorporated over $90,000 per year to provide security.

Davis said the fence has done more than just keep people out; it has also helped to protect wildlife.

“I didn't quite understand the fence at first but yesterday, one benefit of that fence is that the wildlife are flourishing in that area now.” He said. “There are so many deer, for example, and the fence is keeping the deer from jumping onto Reserve Street. So they're able to actually cross underneath the bridge in safe ways and kind of meander around in the natural areas.”

Looking ahead, Davis said if and when the fences can come down, the Reserve Street Bridge habitat could become a welcome recreation site for area families to enjoy.

Read More: Missoula Group Provides Update on Reserve Street Homeless Camp

“From that area and in all directions are some of the fastest-growing parts of Missoula,” he said. “At the same time, there is very limited park access on this side of town, so that could become quite the river access for folks, with trail connectivity linking some more of those neighborhoods. So, there are really just so many options and opportunities.”

Several years ago, the Reserve Street Bridge site was designated as a disaster area, but with cooperation from local government, citizen groups, law enforcement, and the Montana Department of Transportation, Davis said the habitat is returning to its natural state.

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