A 'Love-it-to-death' Kind of Place

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Rights Reserved under Creative Commons: Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Architecture Students at Montana State University in Bozeman are giving back to their community, designing and building a picnic pavilion at the popular Hyalite Resevoir recreation area in the mountains south of the city.

The project, under construction this summer, is a joint project of the MSU School of Architecture, the U.S. Forest Service and the Gallatin Empire Lions Club.

“This is a very active site,” said Bruce Wrightsman, MSU professor of architecture and director of the design-build studio for senior architecture students working on the project.

The students have designed a simple but modern 20 foot by 50 foot structure that will be made of stone, steel and timber with a corrugated steel roof. Wrightsman said flexibility has been the keyword for the design, which will accommodate groups of varied sizes ranging from a few to more than 60 people. It will include two cooking areas and a warming area. The pavilion is designed for public use, including private groups and occasions.

“The great thing about this project is its visibility,” Wrightsman said. “It has given us an opportunity to think how this key recreational facility will be used for the next 20-50 years.”

Weather turned out to be a challenge this year, according to the Bozeman Chronicle.

“The project’s not complete — Mother Nature always bats last,” Jose Castro, Gallatin National Forest district ranger, said to laughs at the Blackmore picnic area. “Mid-summer is now the goal.”

A fire was roaring in the big stone fireplace and chairs for about 25 guests, including Gallatin County Commissioner Bill Murdoch and representatives for Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, faced beautiful lake and mountain views framed by large wooden beams.

Barbeque grills have been installed and concrete laid, but still to come are picnic tables, a covered roof that can fold down to offer wind protection and connecting paths.

“We’re not stopping,” Bruce Wrightsman, Montana State University assistant professor of architecture, said. “We’re gonna work ‘til it’s done.”

The project began with the needs of disabled visitors in mind. Lions Clubs worldwide are known for fighting vision loss as well as other community projects.

Jane Ruchman, landscape architect and developed recreation program manager for the Gallatin, said the idea for the project originated about 20 years ago during a study to determine how to make the site more accessible for wheelchair-bound visitors.

“We surveyed the site with three guys in wheelchairs, and they said it was too hot and offered no coverage,” which can be especially uncomfortable for people with spinal injuries whose body temperatures don’t regulate as well, she said.

It’s been many years since I’ve been up to Hyalite Canyon, but I recall the facilities were well loved. Winter, summer, spring and fall.

“Hyalite is one of those ‘love-it-to-death’ places,” Castro said. “I think this pavilion is going to be a jewel up here.”

The pavilion is going in at the parking lot on the west side of Hyalite Reservoir Dam.
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