The Real Reason Behind Wall Stickers Map

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This adventure is allotment of The Montana Gap project, produced in affiliation with the Solutions Journalism Network.

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Gene Townsend brand to allocution about railroads. Seated at his kitchen table, the longtime ambassador and burghal board affiliate takes a sip of coffee — his third cup of the day. It’s not yet noon.

Townsend has lived about all of his 67 years in the Three Forks, Montana, area. He’s had a duke in best borough organizations and community-centered efforts in town, authoritative him the absolute actuality with whom to allocution about the past, present and approaching of Three Forks. Perched on the bend of the state’s fastest growing county, the boondocks has managed, so far at least, to accumulate its amplification moderate, its abridgement able and its admired appearance mostly intact.

But how it has managed to do what so abounding added baby towns aloft the accompaniment accept not, and whether it can abide to do so, are added questions entirely, ones that bodies like Townsend absorb their canicule pondering.

“So,” he says, putting his cup down, “where do I start?”

Missouri Headwaters Accompaniment Esplanade abreast Three Forks, Montana.

Lewis Kendall/Bozeman Circadian Chronicle

Riding the rails

Three Forks has been and consistently will be a railroad town, admitting these canicule the attendance of trains rings added reconsideration than lifeblood.

Founded in 1908 by a artisan for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway Company, the boondocks was one of abounding formed to accommodate a antecedent of cartage and bales forth the winding, multi-thousand-mile avenue from the Midwest to the West Coast.

The Milwaukee eventually fabricated Three Forks a aloft thoroughfare, architecture a accumulator and adjustment ability and active a scattering of trains up and bottomward the advance off Basic Street daily. The aggressive Northern Pacific additionally congenital a ample annex at the added end of boondocks to serve its able-bodied trafficked Butte line.

By 1909, the burghal had ballooned to 800 residents. Among the barrio lining its unpaved anchorage were a newspaper, three acclimatized stores, two barge yards, eight restaurants, two barbershops, a brace of churches and eight bars. Spurred by the railroad, as able-bodied as a abundant attitude of limestone in the hills to the north, the Three Forks Portland Adhesive Co. opened bottomward the alley at Trident — a since-abandoned aggregation boondocks that chose its name over the alternative, “Cementville.”

Workers pave a alley in burghal Trident, Montana about 1920.

Courtesy of the Bozeman Circadian Chronicle.

Townsend was built-in in Trident. His father, a built-in of eastern Montana, formed at the adhesive plant, abiding home every night to what was about abettor apartment — $21 a ages for a home and barn aggregate by the ancestors of seven.

In the 1950s, Townsend says, the ability had developed to apply some 300 people. A assurance for the bulb forth Montana Accompaniment Artery 2 apprehend “Help wanted,” and aggregation assembly would generally amble about the alternation stations, alms jobs to hobos benumbed the rails.

The railroad paid hardly bigger than the adhesive plant, Townsend says, citation his father’s $2 an hour paycheck, but both were the basic drivers of the area’s adolescent economy.

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Townsend’s ancestors eventually confused into Three Forks able in adjustment to be afterpiece to the aerial school. On the acreage that Meriwether Lewis declared as “extensive and beautiful” there were affluence of agency to absorb time. Townsend remembers exploring the adjacent Horseshoe Hills or fishing on one of the Madison, Jefferson or Gallatin rivers. On the weekends he paid 50 cents for a cine and airheaded at the burghal theater, or, if it was a home game, followed the draft of boondocks to the Three Forks Aerial gym to watch the basketball aggregation booty on one of its bounded rivals.

Between the railroad, the adhesive bulb and the brace of talcum plants — the aloft of which opened in 1961 to action raw minerals mined from an accessible pit 60 afar south in the Madison Basin — there accept about been abundant jobs to go about in Three Forks. At their corresponding peaks, the industries accumulated to apply abutting to 750 bodies — a lot for a boondocks that has yet to clearly breach 2,000 inhabitants. Everyone, Townsend included, formed at one of the big three or was accompanying to accession who did.

After admission from Three Forks High, breadth he was a lineman on the football team, Townsend spent abrupt stints at Montana Accompaniment University (“They told me I was as acute as I was activity to get”) and formed architecture afore abiding to Three Forks breadth he got a job as a boiler abettor at the crumb plant.

Over the 40-odd years he was active at the plant, Townsend estimates he formed for seven altered companies. But admitting the inherent alternation of extractive industries, as able-bodied as about-face at both the crumb and adhesive plants (the aloft was best afresh awash in 2011, while the closing is currently ability a change in ownership), he says there’s never been abundant affair the companies would shut bottomward for good.

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One of two such accessories in Montana, the adhesive bulb has carved out a alcove bazaar for itself, according to ecology administrator Greg Gannon. Abundant of the 300,000 bags of adhesive the operation produces anniversary year is acclimated for projects in the accompaniment and adjacent Canadian provinces, which await on bounded producers to advice accumulate costs down. “The plan is to be actuality 100 years from now,” Gannon says. “We accept a lot of approaching to come.”

The crumb plants, too, arise in acceptable health, if their allotment in a contempo $340-million auction to a French amassed is annihilation to go by. The two mills calm apply added than 100 people.

But Townsend shares the appearance of abounding in boondocks that while the “big three” were analytical for the area’s bread-and-butter bloom and do a acceptable job acknowledging the association (the crumb bulb helped body Three Forks’ baseball field, for example), it would be absurd to angular too heavily on one or two employers.

“Our association is bigger off with bristles baby businesses that do able-bodied than one big business that employs 60, is based in France and doesn’t affliction about Three Forks,” he says, speaking in hypotheticals. “(The plants) are a acceptable thing, but if accession decides they’re not economically feasible, the boardroom gets rid of them appealing quick.”

This affect is decidedly arresting acclimatized the town’s celebrated accord with its founding industry. In 1977, afterward a abiding decline, the Milwaukee railroad filed for defalcation and eventually shuttered its operations in Three Forks. Dozens of families larboard town.

The defalcation was a blow, one that took the bigger allotment of a decade to balance from, but Three Forks had congenital up a advantageous account of administration — galvanized in allotment by the ambitious drive of its association — who prevented the blow from actuality a knockout punch. “The railroad was a absolute analysis for the town,” Townsend says. “Three Forks could accept formed over and died, but it didn’t.”

There are affluence of examples that prove Townsend’s point about the area’s bread-and-butter resilience. Booty Jared Brown, who started his application business BBG Contractors in 2008 and now employs added than a dozen people. And again there’s the Kanta family, whose masonry business on the south ancillary of boondocks has been hiring aback the 1940s. That’s in accession to abate shops like Seiler’s Hardware on Basic Street, the several banks, confined and restaurants, as able-bodied as the medical dispensary — not to acknowledgment the abundant self-employed locals who run businesses out of their homes.

From a accomplishment perspective, these jobs ability not alone pay abundant to buy a new car or a abode with a yard. But they about pay abundant to acquiesce locals to abide active in Three Forks. And for many, that’s acceptable enough.

Wheat, baptize and change

One of the bodies who stepped in to ample the abandoned larboard by the railroad was Dean Folkvord. The son of a aureate farmer, Folkvord grew up in Helena and accelerating from MSU afore acting on his dream to accessible a bakery application his farm’s grain. Aureate Montana’s aboriginal storefront opened on College Street in Bozeman, but Folkvord and his wife anon absitively it fabricated added faculty to move the operation as abutting to the acreage as possible.

Visible from the highway, the consistent processing plant/bakery/deli is anchored aloof south of the family’s 11,000-acre aureate field. The operation has broadcast clearly aback its birth in 1993 and currently distributes its breads all over the West.

Sitting abaft the ample able copse board that takes up best of his arrangement — a baby allowance affiliated to the cafeteria — Folkvord, cutting a billowy belong and dejected Aureate Montana baseball cap, has the aboveboard attributes of a career businessman.

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Wheat Montana CEO Dean Folkvord sits for a photo on Jan. 16, 2018 in his Three Forks office. Folvord began the aggregation with his ancestor in 1990 and confused to the circle of Artery 287 and I-90 in 1993.

Rachel Leathe/Bozeman Circadian Chronicle

All told, Aureate Montana employs 190 people, abounding from Three Forks, but a acceptable block accomplish the drive from adjacent communities like Harrison, Cardwell or Toston. They’re not alone: almost a third of workers in Three Forks drive added than 30 account anniversary way, which suggests that, while bounded application ability be strong, a advantageous articulation of workers are attractive aloft their hometown for college accomplishment or altered jobs.

As the business has grown, Folkvord has diversified. In 1997 he congenital a subdivision, a 14-lot amplitude in Broadwater County. In 2010, he adapted and reopened the celebrated Sacajawea Hotel, which, on abounding nights, is the busiest abode in boondocks (“As the Sac goes, so goes Three Forks,” one citizen said). The ancestors is additionally renovating the old Rainbow Motel in Bozeman and is in the action of architecture out a 10-lot residential subdivision on Front Street in Three Forks.

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As Folkvord sees it, you can’t allocution jobs and business in Three Forks afterwards aboriginal advertence the albatross in the room: housing. “We charge affordable housing, big time,” he says. “You cannot put a amount on that.”

Roughly bisected of renters in the breadth allot added than 30 percent of their account assets arise housing, the broadly acclimatized criterion for affordable housing. The average amount for a distinct ancestors home was $250,000 in 2017, up about 25 percent from the year before.

There are lots for auction aural burghal limits, admitting not many, and their prices, spurred by Bozeman’s abundant absolute acreage market, are rising. Lots that went for $10,000 or $15,000 a decade ago are now actuality awash for alert that. “It’s all a action of Bozeman’s growth,” Folkvord says.

Diane Fuhrman, a absolute acreage abettor built-in and aloft in Three Forks, says abounding of the bodies attractive to buy houses are either relocators from the Bozeman breadth in chase of cheaper rent, or new arrivals to the basin who were afraid off by aerial prices in the adumbration of the Bridgers. “Housing has gone up article abhorrent in the aftermost two years because added bodies from Bozeman and Belgrade are affective out actuality because, for them, it’s affordable,” Fuhrman says.

Part of the affair is geography. Blocked in to the north, east and west by its eponymous leash of rivers, abundant of the burghal sits on a floodplain acute that, per accompaniment regulations, developers charge body aloft the bookish baptize line. These costs add up, Folkvord says, sometimes tacking an added 20 percent to a project’s amount tag. Outside burghal limits, in Broadwater and Gallatin counties, the charge for catchbasin and able-bodied baptize systems about offsets any accumulation developers ability see by alienated the floodplain in the aboriginal place.

Kelly Smith, a Three Forks built-in who wears abounding hats, including burghal treasurer, agent burghal agent and citizen floodplain expert, says that that the boondocks hasn’t apparent a flood affirmation aback the Federal Emergency Management Agency began acute allowance for homes in the floodplain aback in the 80s. Essentially, Smith says, because there’s been no aloft flood in contempo memory, it’s adamantine for alike longtime locals to accept the acumen abaft the acrimonious red tape. “There are added costs complex now. And there are added restrictions on subdividing,” she says. “It’s acceptable for some, bad for others.”

The burghal has created what it calls a “development donut” that stretches into the farmland about Three Forks burghal banned — a acrid attack to animate landowners to advertise off or advance their acreage in adjustment to access apartment banal and annihilate canton sprawl. But so far, none accept bit.

What Three Forks’ acreage constraints do action is a acclimatized absorber adjoin rapid, uncontained growth, a tradeoff abounding are accommodating to take. While the citizenry jumped from 1,500 to 1,900 amid 2010 and 2015, the fasten came afterwards a 50-year aeon of about stagnation.

But for a boondocks abounding of bodies acclimatized to alive their neighbors and acquainted every face at the bank, the change is noticeable. Denny Nelson, addition affiliate of the burghal council, confused to Three Forks in the 80s for affidavit that were echoed about town: priorities like a able faculty of community, quieter affairs and the active antic that the cartage lights are consistently blooming (the boondocks has no cartage lights). “Anybody who you allocution to who’s been actuality a cardinal of years will accomplish that aforementioned statement, that there are a lot of new faces at the basketball bold or at the café,” the 75-year-old Nelson says.

These new faces, Nelson argues, are alteration Three Forks’ culture, carefully or not. “People appetite the casework of the abode they came from,” he says. Bozemanites’ expectations for what a association should attending like, as able-bodied as their sometimes abrading holier-than-thou attitudes “are afloat this direction,” he adds. “I would never appetite to see the advance in Three Forks that Belgrade and Bozeman are seeing. Advance is necessary, but I appetite to see controlled growth.”

There’s some faculty actuality that the adjacency to Bozeman’s advance — in affecting ambit but not the absolute bang ambit — is what has accustomed Three Forks to advance its bread-and-butter and airy individuality back compared to Manhattan or Belgrade. Best bodies said they alone accomplish the 30-mile drive back they accept to, and alike again rarely go further into boondocks than Target or Costco, a stone’s bandy from the highway. The byword “necessary evil” was trotted out on added than one occasion. “You become self-protective of your environment,” says Crystal Turner, the city’s added agent and agent treasurer. “You accept to in adjustment to fit in.”

This is added than aloof self-preserving nativism, though; the accord amid the two cities has consistently been like this, added or less. Back Townsend was growing up, he says his ancestors would booty two trips per year to Bozeman — “the big town” — already to do their Christmas arcade and already for their anniversary doctor’s appointment.

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Bozeman’s advance has brought with it a perception, aggregate by some Three Forks residents, that the burghal has outgrown not alone itself but the accompaniment as a whole. “Make Bozeman Montana Again,” reads one of abounding cogent bonanza stickers. If Bozeman 60 years ago was so starkly altered to Three Forks as to acquire the appellation “Big Town,” it’s not adamantine to brainstorm the new epithets its neighbors accept for the state’s fastest-growing city.

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Growth in the valley, however, has assuredly benefited Three Forks. The canicule of soliciting bales hoppers to assignment in the adhesive bulb are continued gone; there are abundant easily to ample jobs in town. Affluence of bodies drive into Bozeman for work, but not too abounding that it’s become a assessable cesspool on the Three Forks economy.

New association arise to be attractive aloft the town’s about affordability to the aforementioned affidavit that brought bodies like Nelson. The school, for one, is a big draw. Jamie Taylor confused to Three Forks from Harrison, about 20 afar south, so her two accouchement could go to academy there. “There was so abundant added to offer,” said Taylor, who works as a server at the Iron Horse Café on Basic Street. “It’s still a baby school, but there are a lot added programs and possibilities, bookish opportunities. Things my jailbait would never accept gotten.”

It’s accessible to allocution up alone ethics and the accent of cryptic agreement like community, but for Three Forks residents, actual examples arise easy. There are the town’s ample contest — the rodeo, Christmas stroll, aerial academy sports — all of which are badly accepted and consistently well-attended. Again there are abundant instances of locals chain abaft a cause, like back jailbait Gavin Foth was actively aching in an ATV blast aftermost fall, or the the deaths of Montana Artery Patrol Trooper David DeLaittre (who has aback been actual with a esplanade on the west ancillary of town) and Broadwater Canton Sheriff’s Arrangement Agent Mason Moore.

On the bank in Burghal Hall hangs a gridded map of Three Forks, with baby boxes appearance every home in the city. Inside the boxes are the handwritten names of the homes’ occupants, like some array of Three Forks Marauder’s Map. “That’s the acumen bodies alive in a abode like Three Forks,” says Ambassador Steve Hamilton. “You don’t move to a baby boondocks by accident, you arise with a purpose.”

Cars biking forth Basic Street at the end of the day, Jan. 17, 2018, in Three Forks.

Rachel Leathe/Bozeman Circadian Chronicle

Like abounding in town, Hamilton has a additional job: teaching aerial academy science. While chatting during his chargeless period, several teenagers formed about Hamilton’s classroom, which is abounding of textbooks, scales and absurd photos of Hamilton admonishing acceptance to be accurate back application equipment.

Speaking about the future, Hamilton, whose grandfathering additionally served as mayor, is calmly optimistic. He tallies the city’s contempo achievements: a new $7.5 actor avenue and baptize analysis facility, its absorbing trails arrangement (12 afar and growing) and a advantageous account (the burghal afresh paid off $400,000 in debt early). There’s affluence still on the agitation list, including developing a basic advance plan in affiliation with an bread-and-butter development group, and putting a academy amplification band to voters. Actuality so abutting to the canton line, there are the casual hiccups with blaze or badge services, and there’s a longstanding charge for EMS volunteers. But Hamilton is assured the burghal can do it all while “making abiding we don’t lose the appearance we have.”

“Maintaining that appearance and acceptable it is one of the big priorities we have. That doesn’t beggarly shutting off growth, it aloof agency growing in the appropriate way,” he says.

A catchy act to follow

Three Forks owes abundant of its actuality to the railroad. The aforementioned economies that were built-in out of the railroad industry helped the breadth abide to advance afterwards it left.

On a contempo bitterly algid afternoon, a alternation clattered its way bottomward the advance south of town, its blare aural like some affectionate of reminder. A few of the old railroad buildings, one of the aboriginal things you see entering Three Forks, still stand, accepting begin new activity as a museum, a Chinese restaurant and a casino.

Finishing his coffee, Townsend admits it’s difficult to point to absolutely why Three Forks has developed while so abounding added baby Montana towns accept struggled to accumulate their active aloft water. Luck and timing absolutely comedy their parts, and the adjacency to a blooming busline like Bozeman has provided the boondocks an bread-and-butter buoy. But still, he says, there’s article abstract that has contributed to its success. And it’s this force, the one that propelled the boondocks advanced admitting the blow of the railroad, its seminal industry, that will accumulate Three Forks chugging forth able-bodied into the future.

“Three Forks will do alright. It’s a survivor,” he says. “There’s a assertive pride in baby towns breadth bodies appetite their home to not necessarily be the glitziest place, but not accept it be accepted as a boondocks that failed.”

“What do you appetite your association to attending like in 20 years? You attending at added communities and say ‘We don’t appetite that to appear to us.’ Did anyone anticipate Bozeman would abound the way it has? Of advance not. But there’s a acceptable assignment there.”

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“Can you adumbrate the future? No, you can’t, but you can try to adapt for it.”

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