New Kids on the Block
A neighborhood for a forgotten way of life.
We throw around the word “community” nonchalantly these days. The running community, the skiing community, the coalition of Co-op shoppers community—the list goes on. It seems like we’ve lost touch with what really makes a community valuable: frequent interactions with familiar people who are invested in attaining common goals and promoting shared values. Enter Bozeman Cohousing, a neighborhood on the south side of town that will garner residents who are dedicated to the revival of community.
The property is situated on a five-acre parcel off Wagon Wheel Rd, near Sacajawea Middle School. Residences will include townhomes and apartments with shared indoor and outdoor spaces, designed with an emphasis on sustainable living. Construction is set to begin in the spring of 2021. Outside Bozeman talked with three members who have already signed on about what drew them to cohousing, their goals for the project, and how they’ll contribute to the community.
Marci grew up on a farm in Vermont, milking Holsteins and raising poultry. She came to Bozeman three years ago for a family visit and found a new home here. Marci has a passion for service work. She volunteers at Fork & Spoon, Sacks, and Eagle Mount. She was one of the first members to sign on with Bozeman Cohousing.
O/B: Do you think the cohousing community will be self-selecting, or are there specific characteristics that you’re looking for in your residents?
Marci: So far, the process has been self-selecting, although we want to attract people from a wide range of backgrounds. We don’t want to just be an extension of Bozeman, but we do want to pay homage to Montana’s heritage.
O/B: How will Bozeman Cohousing offer more sustainable living than other housing options?
Marci: We’ll have on-site solar panels, and we’re on our way to net-zero emissions. We’ll have a shared vehicle with a rideshare program for commuting and errands. We’re salvaging preexisting buildings from the property by reusing materials. We’re building a bike barn to hold up to 100 bikes, and we’re lobbying to get a Streamline bus route in our neighborhood.
O/B: Will you have organized outdoor trips for residents?
Marci: Of course! We’ve already done camping trips, group hikes, and a moonlight paddle on Hyalite Reservoir. We’ve also been attending river and trailhead cleanup events. Anytime someone has plans for an outing, there’s an opportunity for others to get involved.
O/B: How will the neighborhood make a positive impact on the Bozeman community at large?
Marci: We’re devising a plan to offer affordable housing, which is harder and harder to come by. We want to be accessible for first-time home buyers. We’ll also organize our own cleanup events around town, and host events on-premises that are open to the public.
Karen has lived in Bozeman for 15 years. She works at Crosscut Mountain Sports Center and previously spent several years with the Forest Service. She cares deeply about the Gallatin Valley and is excited to be joining a group of folks who want to live a sustainable lifestyle.
O/B: What piqued your interest in Bozeman Cohousing?
Karen: I have three daughters who are on their way out [of the house], and I wanted to downsize. I don’t have any other family in Montana, so the idea of tight-knit community was appealing to me.
O/B: Do you have a leadership role? What are some of your responsibilities?
Karen: I’m the chair of the agriculture and landscaping committee. We have goats to look after, and we’re drawing up plans for large gardens and greenhouses. We’re currently working on the layout of our outdoor spaces.
O/B: Is there anything that you’re apprehensive about?
Karen: It’s going to be different, but I wouldn’t say that I’m apprehensive. I’m giving up a big back yard, but I’ll have bigger shared spaces in our new neighborhood. I’ll give up having my own car, but I like the idea of having a rideshare program and using alternate transportation.
Garl was raised on a cattle ranch in the Madison Valley, attended Montana State, and has lived in Bozeman since 2012. He recalls his grandpa sharing equipment with neighbors, and how everyone in his ranching community helped out with brandings and cattle drives. Garl loves spending time in the mountains and looks forward to outings with fellow cohousing residents.
O/B: How did you first hear about Bozeman Cohousing?
Garl: I had a similar idea visualized for a more rural setting, but organizing people, buying land, and raising money proved to be daunting. My son and I made a drawing three years ago of our “ideal community,” and when I attended an info session for Bozeman Cohousing last spring, I saw many of the traits that we’d envisioned.
O/B: How has the ranching community in the Madison Valley changed since your childhood?
Garl: As development has sprawled, the ranching community has become decentralized. Ranches are fewer and farther between. For kids growing up on ranches today, it’s not so easy to bike down the road and hang out with friends. But for my kids, with cohousing, they’ll redeem that sense of community I’ve always cherished.
O/B: Drawing on your ranching experience, what do you foresee as your day-to-day duties with the livestock on property?
Garl: We’ll have goats to milk, poultry to care for, greenhouses to look after, huge gardens, an orchard, bees—I’ll definitely stay busy. We’re lucky to have livestock—when the property was annexed from Gallatin County into the city last year, the goats were grandfathered in, so we’re allowed to keep animals.
O/B: How will you help other members with less experience get involved in looking after the livestock?
Garl: The landscaping and agriculture committee will help get everyone involved. People love gardening and growing food—it’s such a human thing to do. It’s easy to give someone a hoe and teach them how to space rows and scatter seeds.
O/B: What are you most looking forward to about Bozeman Cohousing?
Garl: I’m excited be involved in the process of designing our buildings—for my house, I helped designed an atrium with a specific climate where I’ll be able to grow avocados, citrus, and kiwis. I’m also looking forward to the ease of organized group outings. Being right on the Main Street to the Mountains trail system, I’ll be able to access most of our local trails right from my front door. Most of all, I’m excited for my kids to grow up in this neighborhood, with lots of open space and plenty of other kids around. I know they’ll be happy growing up in this community.
Read more about the project at bozemancohousing.com.