Monday, April 21

An optimistic future for Missoula

Yesterday's Earth Day fair in Caras park, sponsored by Missoula Urban Development Project, showcased some of the efforts that various local groups are making to encourage sustainable urban development. Missoula is certainly blessed with a groundswell of active citizens who are working hard on this, and several of the groups are just getting off the ground.

The Community Food and Agriculture Coalition has started getting involved in the complicated arena of land use planning. They have been sending a representative to the city planning commission to plead for the protection of valuable farmland in the valley against the perpetual tidal waves of sprawl. They've realized that it's tough to have a local food system if there isn't any land to grow it on.

Missoula's healthy contingent of cycling advocates were all there. Bob Giordano's Missoula Institute of Sustainable Transportation, the city's Missoula in Motion, and the new Bike Walk Alliance of Missoula had booths.

There were also some interesting development projects on display. I discovered plans for a Burns Street Square in a part of the Westside neighborhood with many lower-income households. The square will feature a large food coop and restaurant with ample public space for the neighborhood, surrounded by 17 affordable housing units. The whole site plan looks great, and its development would undoubtedly benefit this part of Missoula. The same architecture firm MMW also held an open house for their new cluster of energy efficient homes on Phillips street. We went over to take a look and were very impressed. These hybrids of condos and single-family houses represent an emerging real estate market here for people who want to live closer to town and consume less of our earth's resources.

This collection of non-profit, government, and for-profit enterprises shows that Missoulians do take seriously the prospect of living within our means environmentally.


J.W. said...

Do you plan on returning to missoula after finishing your degree?

Daniel Nairn said...

That's actually a big question for me that I wish I had a good answer for. Most people I know, including myself, are very mobile. I'm from New York, then Delaware, then Massachusetts, and now Montana, and then ...

I've really come to think there are some costs to this way of doing things.

Yet I just have no idea if any jobs in planning will be available when I graduate. And the situation is complicated by the fact that my wife's family and my family are on opposite sides of the country, neither near Missoula. I really wish I could build firm roots in a particular community. I'm tired of making friends and then leaving them. But it's hard to know exactly how to do that. Or maybe I'm just balking.

J.W. said...

Yeah, that's something with which my wife and I have struggled deeply this year. She is from Austin and would like to stay here, but a sense of place and community is incompatible with a traditional academic career. I can't imagine a career in which opportunities are scarcer than academia. What we've concluded is that I just can't be a traditional academic. We would really like to return to Austin after the degree, and if no academic post is available, then I'll just have to do something else, perhaps teach high school.