by William Skink
My mom made a comment today as we talked about the mind-numbing barrage of violence that’s unfolded this week. I’m glad we moved to Missoula, she said. But then she corrected herself by saying, of course, it could happen here, but in my mom’s estimation, Missoula is a step up from bigger city living. After Seattle and Kansas City, Missoula has been an ideal place for them to move to, and not just because they have three precious grandkids to spoil.
If you can afford to live here, Missoula is great. And lots of people want to live here because just look around. I moved here 16 years ago, during the summer the Bitterroot burned and riots broke out downtown over the presence of Hells Angels and an overzealous show of force by police (mostly it was because of the police). We lived near the interstate that summer, on the north side of town. Then, with help from the in-laws, we bought a house in the slant streets for a ridiculously low price.
The housing bubble catalyst that brought on the ongoing economic crisis didn’t hurt the value of our house one bit. When we sold last year, we were shocked to hear the initial estimate of what we could ask. We were under contract within 24 hours of putting it on the market.
I’ve benefited from a growing Missoula that grows because that’s how much people want to live here, and being a non-native Montanan, I’m a part of the influx that’s lately been getting some attention. So while I’m plenty open to accusations of hypocrisy, I’m going to go ahead and chime in on some coverage of the gripes and moaning I’ve been seeing pop up as the world burns down around our beautiful Missoula bubble.
Over the holiday weekend I witnessed the great “towathon” on Kona Ranch road. This is my backyard now, so to speak, so I cross that bridge all the time, and I was frankly surprised to see the amount of tow trucks and Sheriff deputies involved in the enforcement of this no parking area. I would much prefer law enforcement catching drunk drivers and meth dealers, but maybe that’s just me. When I read Kidston’s piece, I rolled my eyes.
The gist of the story is relatively new, and pretty nice, homes have angry residents who have suffered some traumatizing inconveniences, like blocked driveways and constricted roadways, so enough noise was made by these property owners, causing Missoula County to allocate law enforcement resources to oversee car towing. On the 4th of July.
So now that this is a problem, our lawmakers are going in search of money to fix it because one of ’em lives out here:
Rep. Willis Curdy, D-Missoula, who lives on Kona Ranch Road, has seen parked cars stretching down both sides of the road for a distance of 1,000 feet. He said the road isn’t wide enough to accommodate parked vehicles.
“With all the parking that’s been taking place there, it has become problematic for emergency vehicles, and the neighbors have complained about people blocking their driveways and turning around in their property,” Curdy said. “When you have two vehicles parked on both sides, it gets very narrow, and speed is a problem out here.”
Curdy believes the problem at Kona Ranch Road is symptomatic of a larger issue. The Missoula population is growing, placing increased pressure on recreational sites and public access. He believes it’s time for city and county leaders, as well as the state, to sit down and find a solution.
“As our population grows, there’s going to be even more use,” said Curdy. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
As state legislators prepare for the next session, Curdy plans to seek funding from the Habitat Montana Program to improve recreational opportunities, including access to popular sites like the Bitterroot and Clark Fork rivers.
Ah, now I see why precious law enforcement resources were deployed on the 4th of July weekend. Now go get that money, Willy!
If too many trucks obstructing his view is bumming Willy out, he might be sympathetic to Flash in the Pan’s KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN missive on the phenomena of hipsters killing farmers markets. And also, people with strollers. Luckily the Indy responded with a real life farmers-market-killing hipster striking back. I think we can safely file all this under first world problems.
Pete Talbot has a good post worth reading, asking how do we grow?
What I see, unfortunately, is examples of how not to grow, like bonding a vast park by Fort Missoula that the city will have to scrape pennies together to maintain now because, whoopsie, no one apparently anticipated the cost of ongoing maintenance, and there’s even a question whether the city can recoup money it expected to from park fees.
Meanwhile, the County can barely maintain its current transportation infrastructure. Now that I live out here, and now that my kids are going to be regularly riding a bus over a one-lane bridge getting twice as much traffic as it was built for, I’m discovering that behind the Save Maclay Bridge signs the real message is save my South Street property value from building the bridge where all the expensive reports have said the bridge needs to go.
The inverse of property owners compelling County resources to be expended on the 4th of July weekend is property owners preventing action when action is needed. This piece about this issue is from September, 2015:
Plans to tear out the old Maclay Bridge and send traffic down South Avenue across a new bridge are still generating sharp divisions within the Target Range community.
Although Missoula County already signed off on the plans to redevelop the west end of South Avenue to connect with the new bridge, opponents are still dug in with their insistence the Maclay Bridge could be rehabilitated.
They worry about safety along South, especially by Target Range School. But the new bridge has its backers too, who are convinced it’s the best long-term option that will solve neighborhood traffic problems and be better for the environment along the Bitterroot River.
“They are bringing essentially a new collector route through a mature, developed residential area, so it’s a safety issue,” Maclay Bridge Alliance Director Bob Schweitzer said.
“A study which was done over the last couple of years [with] a different group of scientists and engineers came to the same conclusion – that the existing bridge is obsolete and unsafe and that it should be replaced with a new bridge,” countered Don St. Peter with the Maclay Bridge Common Sense Coalition.
Both factions are expected to continue pressing their points in the coming months.
I admittedly didn’t follow this very closely before moving out here, but now that my kids travel on a bus over an unsafe bridge, well, I’m a bit more interested in why nothing is happening.
I think about growth while I sit in traffic on Reserve Street, and when I see the new bank going up downtown, and when I see another convenience store with a casino getting a facelift, I guess because business is good in the hope-for-a-jackpot market.
Basically what I think about when I think about how Missoula is growing is that it’s growing the way anything grows in America, with money, so if the money keeps coming in, what’s to stop it? People can throw tantrums over the screaming neon of the Verizon store on Broadway, or lament the imminent demolition of the Merc, or argue over light pollution from some silly project to light up bridges (even the one falling apart, I guess), but money makes things happen, so if money is talking, best learn to shut up because no one is listening otherwise.
Especially once the new bullet proof glass goes up for the clerks in Municipal Court, and the Mayor gets his escape hatch to flee from the crazies not even the jails or hospitals will take anymore.