Local government and community leaders in Missoula are taking steps to improve parking in Missoula's Midtown.

The core of Midtown is the Missoula County Fairgrounds. It also includes Southgate Mall, Holiday Village and Trempers Shopping Centers the YMCA, and some of Missoula's busiest traffic corridors.

The group will review prior studies and reports, and may take steps to do a parking audit.

An Environmental Protection Agency grant brought consultants to Missoula to talk to community leaders.

One suggestion is to do a parking audit of Midtown -- an inventory.

"How is it used," asks Smart Growth of America's Roger Millar. "Is it used for customers? How often is it used. When is it full? When is it empty?"

At fair time, a parking spot is precious. People even rent their driveways out.

"Parking becomes a problem, not only for the grounds, but for neighbors," said Missoula county commissioner, Michele Landquist. She asked, "Should that be done in a shared fashion?"

The YMCA is the fairgrounds' neighbor. Depending on the season, the time of day, that parking lot can be full or empty. It's a scratch your head problem.

"We're looking at how we might share our resources (with the fairgrounds)," said YMCA chief executive officer Jon Lange, "and share blacktop."

The group is reviewing all of Midtown. It's considering ways to make part of South Avenue more friendly to bicycles and pedestrians.

"It reduces the amount of parking we need," said city Parks and Rec Director Donna Gaukler, "it increases physical activity and the wellness of of our community."

She said South Avenue with its regional mall, hospital, clinics and schools could be  a significant corridor of the future.