When people are asked to give examples of what makes their home community stand out amongst others, one factor that often comes to the forefront is the quality and abundance of parks and recreational services that are in place. Parks provide space for families or groups of all ages and economic status to meet and enjoy the outdoors. They are very important in the social aspect of determining quality of life. The value of parks is also included in the economic sphere. The real estate market shows its appreciation of parks and open space by the fact that many people will pay a higher price for homes located near these desirable amenities. This "park premium" results in increased property values and, in turn, leads to higher property tax revenues for our city. Ready access to parks and open space offers a key amenity that attracts businesses and employees and promotes visitors to spend extra time here, fueling the local economy. And recreation programs can contribute to the operating costs of maintaining the parks themselves, while using the areas for sporting or music events can bring in out-of-area revenue. Finally, parks are known for their overall health benefits. Research has shown that access to parks improves both physical and mental health, resulting in medical care cost savings. Increased air quality, having a safe and pleasant place for physical activity, capturing stormwater, and connection to nature are all measurable, quality of life benefits of parks. We are fortunate here in Bozeman to have access to numerous neighborhood parks and miles of trails to choose from when we are looking for quality time outdoors. The City of Bozeman's website reports 42 public parks with 52 miles of trails/ sports fields/ open space within our city limits. Partnerships are a key component of keeping these areas properly updated and maintained. One very exciting project that will be coming to realization is the Story Mill Community Park. So what makes the Story Mill Community Park, located only 2 miles north of Bozeman's thriving downtown hub, such a unique venture? At 60 acres, it will be Bozeman's flagship park serving the entire community. A community center will be the first thing visitors are greeted with at the main entrance, providing recreational and outdoor educational programming. A centerpiece interactive playground, outdoor amphitheater, learning garden and edible food forest, contemplative labyrinth, and picnic areas are just the start of all there will be available at the park. The property encompasses portions of both Bozeman Creek and the East Gallatin River, within a 40-acre nature sanctuary, with hiking trails for viewing birds and other wildlife. Recently restored, this natural area includes a ¾ mile stretch of the East Gallatin River, offering access to this in-town, blue ribbon trout stream. Story Mill Community Park has been designed over the past couple of years with widespread input from Bozeman residents. It will offer a range of outdoor activities, venues for community events, and reflect the values and vitality of our growing community. It has been under the careful watch and direction of both the City of Bozeman and The Trust for Public Land since the property was acquired in December of 2012. Bozeman voters approved a $15 million bond in 2012 for parks and recreation, and in 2014 the City Commission allocated $4.5 million to this project. The bond passed with overwhelming community support, underscoring the quality of life values that we all share. The Trust for Public Land is leveraging the city investment with a private fundraising campaign. To date, they have raised $10 million via donations and grants, with an additional $1.6 million left to raise to make the true vision come to life. Next month will mark the official ground-breaking on Saturday, June 24th. The event is open to the public and will include family-friendly activities and site tours. Park completion and opening is anticipated in the Fall of 2018. Now is a watershed moment and a great opportunity to get involved. If you would like to donate to the cause or find out further information, please check out support.tpl.org/storymill. As a city that is experiencing growth at an extraordinary rate, it becomes increasingly vital to create and retain natural outdoor spaces that remind inhabitants of why they came here or plan to stay. Support and enjoy your local parks. They are great places to make memories in vibrant, healthy settings that bring proud communities together.