Season Opener: Our Eclectic Community

For as long as most people can remember, Bozeman has suffered from an identity crisis. Cow town, college town, ski town, tourist town, "New West" yuppie town — just what is this place, anyway? The answer, of course, is that Bozeman is all these things. It’s a town of rich history and broad diversity, where all manner of people coexist in one community. Bozeman is the kind of place where you can spend a Saturday night watching world-class thespians perform at a local theatre, head downtown afterward to catch a hip-hop band, and on the way home see a dead elk strapped to someone’s pickup.

If there’s an underlying theme within our eclectic community, a single characteristic that unites us all, it’s a love of the surrounding environment. Clean air, crystalline rivers, deep blue skies, rolling fields of grass, abundant wildlife, rugged mountains rising in all directions — that’s what brings people here, and that’s what makes us all proud to call this place home. Not everyone expresses that love by launching a kayak into the Gallatin during high water, or screaming down the single-track below Emerald Lake. Some are content with a Sunday drive to Yellowstone Park, a casual stroll across Peet’s Hill, or just a quiet evening on the front porch, watching the alpenglow on the Bridgers.

But the world is changing before our eyes, and Bozeman is no exception. Our town is growing, and now more than ever, we need to do more than just love it — we need to work to ensure that it stays the kind of place we’ll love forever. History tells a sobering story in other booming Western towns: fields paved over, rivers polluted, wildlife destroyed or driven out, and mountain views blotted by buildings and smog.

So take some time this summer to think about why you love Bozeman, why you live here instead of the city where you could make some real money, and what the local community means to you. Then figure out what you can do to keep it that way. Get involved in local programs, attend town meetings, send e-mails to local and state representatives. Or take an easier route and just vote with your dollars — with every purchase, think about where your money’s going, what you’re investing in. Make your voice heard, one way or another. After all, it’s your community, and your actions can help shape its future.

But most of all, take Edward Abbey's advice this summer and get outside, "get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for awhile and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious, and awesome space..."