MISSOULA, Mont. - Opponents of a plan to construct the Montana College building on UM's south campus is getting more visible attention.
Yard signs are going up against developing the University golf course and athletic fields.
UM sees the area as a good site for future expansion, and positive for education.
Missoula College would be the first building on site
It would be built in addition to the current college near Sentinel High School.
Many said that building is old and overcrowded.
Opponents don't disagree, but say the South Campus was designated specifically for athletics.
Big signs and smaller ones protesting construction on the golf course are being installed around Missoula neighborhoods.
Sign makers said the UM golf course and athletic fields should stay as they are.
They were a gift to the University and to the city of Missoula, by alumni and community leaders who raised money for years, said Renee Mitchell.
Mitchell and other supporters combed through the minutes of the Alumni Challenge Athletic Field Corporation, the fundraising group that purchased the land.
They went through letters, certificates of indebtedness, and receipt books dating back to 1922.
There are records from Missoula pioneers who donated $5, $10 and $20 for the project.
Mitchell read about a meeting in the early days.
"One-quarter of the town turned out,"she said,"because they thought it was so critical that the University have this type of facility."
She said the University is ignoring donor intent.
The fields are used for track, intramural sports, even hang gliding.
But the University said it is honoring the intent of donors, going back to the 1920's.
"I would say moral mission," UM vice president for integrated communications, Peggy Kuhr said, "to serve students and when you look at the legal documents they talk about the use and benefit of the University."
Kuhr said the land would offer Missoula College students better proximity to the main or mountain campus, to its health center, bookstore, athletic facility and daycare.
She said it offers more efficient use of services and eliminates duplication.
Officials said this large tract of land is insurance for the future, for local businesses to re-train, for single moms and veterans.
She said it's accessible to public infrastructure, thus more friendly to taxpayers.
The University sees room to grow.
"Future growth of an entire campus," said Kuhr,"not one building at a time.
The plan is before the legislature in Helena.
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