Magazine article Sunset

Missoula, Montana

Magazine article Sunset

Missoula, Montana

Article excerpt

Hard times made this city a community

IT'S A SATURDAY MORNING IN JULY 1999, AND downtown Missoula is humming. Runners, bicyclists, and dogs with wind-- milling tails zoom along the trails lining the Clark Fork River. The strains of "Puff the Magic Dragon" rise from the organ at Caras Park's hand-carved carousel. On Adams Street, at the $6-million Missoula Children's Theatre, kids rehearse Alice in Wonderland. At the farmers' market, Hmong immigrants sell huckleberries beside fifth-generation Bitterroot Valley farmers selling apples.

Twenty-five years ago, none of this existed. The Milwaukee Railroad had abandoned Missoula, leaving behind miles of empty train tracks. The Clark Fork riverfront was where people dumped garbage. Downtown was marked by row after row of empty storefronts.

Who was responsible for the transformation? The Missoula community, according to Daniel Kemmis, Missoula mayor from 1990 to 1996 and author of The Good City and the Good Life. Take a cosmopolitan populace (nurtured by the University of Montana), Kemmis says, put it in a remote place, and stir in economic despair. What you get is a city that is self-determining. People realized that if they wanted jobs, they had to create their own. …

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