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Big Sky Community Organization celebrates 25 years

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The community board took in input from visitors and community members. PHOTO BY JEN CLANCEY

Evening event celebrated BSCO’s growing relationship with the Big Sky community


Under a tent at Len Hill Park, kids and adults lined up to answer the prompt “BSCO is…” and then pinned it to a community board. Some answered: “where our community comes to recreate,” and simply, “community.” Some were more mysterious, including a note that garnered attention: “I LiCK FiCH”, possibly alluding to Gallatin River trout and in spirit with all the outdoor recreation that the Big Sky Community Organization facilitates.

BSCO held its 25th anniversary party on Aug. 30, coinciding with the final large-scale Big Sky Farmers Market of the season. An inflatable obstacle course and outdoor games dotted the lawn while families viewed posters that outlined BSCO’s future plans, including a new community park and added trails. At 7 p.m. the Gallatin Roller Derby held a scrimmage on the basketball court, showcasing the high-energy and competitive sport.

Scott Pankratz, director of donor engagement, helped plan the event alongside the BSCO team. “The success of this organization is due to the good will of this community,” Pankratz said over the phone a week before the event.

“We want to do something that the whole community can access,” Pankratz said. He described the party as a big thank you to the community and a celebration of the work BSCO has been able to do in Big Sky.

Preserving community hubs and building inclusive community

The organization holds a rich history of shaping how Big Sky looks and feels. Ciara Wolfe, VP of philanthropy at the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation, joined BSCO in 2015 as the executive director and eventually chief executive officer. She accomplished a lot of things over the course of five years in the role, including acquiring Beehive Basin Nature Preserve in 2017 and working diligently toward developing the BASE community center.

Wolfe told the history of Len Hill Park, the lawn most known to host free concerts in the Music in the Mountains series every summer. The area was zoned for condominiums, but in 2018, BSCO was able to acquire the space and preserve it as a hub for community events and arts.

When Wolfe joined BSCO, there were only two-and-a-half staff members on the BSCO team. “We really grew the community’s investment and engagement in BSCO,” Wolfe said, explaining how BSCO changed their former name, Big Sky Community Corporation, to its current title because of this increased interest and involvement. She celebrated how incredible it is to be in a place where people love and engage with outdoor recreation.

Several BSCO members emphasized that accessibility to trails and parks is an important goal.

“The TIGER Grant was a huge milestone in my involvement and for alternative modes of transportation,” Wolfe said. As a part of the Big Sky Trails Master Plan, BSCO designed the pedestrian tunnel that is being constructed under the key intersection of Lone Mountain Trail and Little Coyote Road. The tunnel will ensure that people can access Big Sky Community Park safely by foot or bicycle.

In just a year, BASE has made a lasting impact on Big Sky

As a kid jotted down his love for BASE community center at the anniversary party, Whitney Montgomery—BSCO’s chief executive officer—noted how the facility fosters community.

“I am constantly amazed when I see people of all ages come into BASE and share what BASE has done for them in their lives,” Montgomery said. “From people who said that… they would come to fitness classes and [it] would help them remain sober to folks who have lost huge amounts of weight by using the facility, to kids that say this is the best thing in Big Sky.”

“That’s…That’s remarkable,” Montgomery said.

The Gallatin Roller Derby bout took place just outside BASE community center in Len Hill Park. PHOTO BY JEN CLANCEY

Some of the plans that Montgomery is excited about include creating multi-use fields at the Big Sky Community Park for school, clubs and adult recreation teams.

“It really provides more amenities that will bring families together, to have more adult pickup leagues, and all that just builds community,” Montgomery said.

By 7:30 p.m., the 10-foot community board was covered in yellow, blue and green slips of paper all with words about what BSCO means to community members.

“I hope people feel a sense of gratitude for what we have built together,” Pankratz said.

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