There’s no question Bozeman is growing at an astonishing rate. We’ve officially been discovered, and more and more people are making their way to what used to be a small Montana town. With any rapid growth like Bozeman has seen, there is going to be good and bad. The growing pains are real here. We don’t like to focus on the negative, but sometimes it feels good to vent.
In the past, we’ve joked that when we complain about traffic here in Bozeman it has no real comparison to actual city traffic. But, it really is getting bad around here. Between road construction and all the extra people, there are times that you actually have to sit in traffic. No longer does “going across town” take only 10 minutes. More cars on the road, more congestion, more road rage. Not great.
There’s no question, Bozeman has some of the best public schools and Montana State University continues to grow. However, with all eight of the elementary schools close to full and Montana State University hitting a record enrollment this year, Bozeman is feeling it. Some kids can’t get into their neighborhood school, pick up/drop off can be a nightmare and it’s hard to find a parking spot for MSU students to get to class on time. Fortunately, both the Bozeman School District and MSU are thinking ahead with plans to accommodate the growth. We just have to deal with it in the interim!
All of a sudden it feels like anytime you are at the grocery store or Target you will inevitably wait in a line that makes you think it’s the holiday season. Or, you head to your favorite downtown restaurant only to find there is an hour wait for a table. Wait, what? That never used to happen in Bozeman! Of course, there was the occasional time, perhaps during MSU parents weekend that restaurants felt crowded or the day after Thanksgiving the stores seemed a little busier. Recently it feels like there’s just no downtime for these places. Summer in Bozeman used to be the quiet time as MSU students had left. They’ve now been replaced by tourists so, in Bozeman, there is no longer a quiet time of year.
The mountains are filling up
Do you remember a time when you could go to Hyalite on a Saturday and have your pick of campsites? How about a hike to the M without seeing another person? Those days are long gone. We are so lucky to live in a place where the mountains are our playground and we can get to them quickly. But, so can everyone else! These days, if you want a quiet trail or a campsite to yourself, you either have to go further away or plan way in advance. (At least everyone moving here is getting out to enjoy all the awesomeness!)
Bozeman is full of friendly people, it always has been and it still mostly is. But, with an influx of people, this is bound to change. Luckily this feels like a small shift, however, a little bit of the friendliness and good old Montana manners are getting lost in the growth. This goes hand in hand with a sense of Bozeman entitlement. Who’s to blame for the growing pains? There are the Bozeman natives who have seen the most change and have plenty of opinions on it. Then there are the ones who have moved here in the last decade or so and now wish it would stop. They got the opportunity to move here but don’t want anyone else to.
Homes prices have been steadily rising in Bozeman the past few years, and they remain well above average. The same goes for the rental market in Bozeman with high rent prices and low inventory. Finding affordable housing can be a real struggle and is a hot topic in Bozeman.
As eternal optimists, we also have to point out the benefits of Bozeman's growth.
A vibrant community
There’s a reason everyone is flocking to Bozeman. It’s because it truly is a fantastic place to live! There is always some event going on, a new business opening, and plenty of people to support all the amazing nonprofits in town. If you’ve ever been one to complain about the growth in Bozeman, take a minute to consider the alternative. We’ve been to towns that are going the opposite direction and it’s sad to see communities with boarded-up windows on businesses and homes. We’ll take the growing pains for the vibrant Bozeman community any day of the week!
Businesses expanding beyond downtown
It used to be that besides the big box stores and restaurants, downtown was the only place to thrive for a local business. As Bozeman has grown out, so have the neighborhood businesses. We love downtown, but it’s nice to have more options. The Cannery District, Ferguson Farms and the business center at Kagy and South 3rd are just a few examples of fantastic local businesses that have expanded beyond the downtown area. This is something that is sure to continue creating more restaurants and stores closer to neighborhoods.
New people, new ideas
With all the growth comes new personalities and ideas into the community. It also helps those of us that have lived here a while to not take it for granted. Often we forget how beautiful Bozeman is…sometimes it takes a newcomer to mention our mountainous backdrop to remind us how very lucky we are to call Bozeman home.
There used to be a time when you would go to an MSU game and the crowd turnout was a little sad, to say the least. Now, Bozeman is full of team spirit! Blue and gold fill the town on game days and the energy is contagious! It’s not just football games, you feel the extra energy at all the Bozeman events. Everyone out enjoying all that Bozeman has to offer.
Whatever the future holds for Bozeman, we know one thing, it's the people and their passion that makes this a wonderful community to live in. With that, we can overcome the growing pains.