Location: West of Reserve Street, south of South Third Street West, north of South Street, east of Clements Road.
Features: Equestrian Park; Adjacent to Fort Missoula
Public Schools: Big Sky High School, C.S. Porter Middle School, Hawthorne Elementary
Parks: Big Sky, Rosecrest
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Rural neighborhood resting on the edge of the city
By Melissa Fisher for Real Estate Marketplace
Drive west through Missoula and across the busy Reserve Street corridor into the Orchard Homes / Emma Dickinson neighborhood, and almost instantly the noisy city sounds and faster-paced lifestyle give way to a world of quiet homes and lush agriculture.
Bordered by the Clark Fork River to the north and the Kelly Island Recreation Area to the west, this largely residential area features ample open space and a peaceful way of life, right on the western edge of town.
Neighborhood resident Brandy Snider, a Realtor with Lambros Real Estate, said the best part of living here is having it all. “The beauty of Orchard Homes is the convenience of access to shopping and hospitals, and on the flip side, being right next to the river and mountains. It’s truly rural living.”
Continue west through the neighborhood, and residential streets become broken up by open fields, family farms, and even small private pastures for horses and other livestock. Wildlife abounds, with everything from curious squirrels to champion bucks wandering through. Weathered old farmhouses stand out among pockets of new homes. “It is a luxury to have your horses in your backyard, room for gardening, and space to expand your life style if needed. It’s small town America, right in Missoula’s backyard,” said Snyder.
Many of the flowers, fruits and vegetables found at Missoula’s farmers markets are grown by neighborhood residents in their small farms here. The Orchard Community Garden and Neighborhood Farm, a partnership between Garden City Harvest and homeWORD, sells Community Supported Agriculture shares, operates a Volunteers for Veggies program, and offers cooking and gardening classes for nearby kids. The family-owned Caras Nursery and Landscape, a favorite among Missoula gardeners and an iconic neighborhood institution, has been in business on Third Street since 1896.
The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation operates a Tree Improvement Cooperative project in the middle of Orchard Homes, an expansive piece of land filled with tall ponderosas, some of which will be used as a seed source for future reforestation projects. Peaceful walking trails surround this impressive site, adding an element of the forest into the farming neighborhood.
A lively Little League baseball field sits in the midst of all of this, where parents cheer as their children learn and play. The neighborhood also holds tribute to a piece of Missoula history, taking part of its name after Emma Dickinson, who was hired as Missoula’s first teacher in 1869.
The area is also home to Orchard Homes Country Life Club, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. “The Clubhouse”, as it’s known by its members, brings the community together and works to maintain neighborhood’s unique rural charm and to promote the welfare of the community. The Club runs a weekly neighborhood Farmers Market, and hosts many potlucks and private events throughout the year. The neighborhood works together to maintain the quiet lifestyle that brought them here. Snyder said, “This community strives to maintain the character and quality by staying involved in growth and development.”
Nestled just north of the Blue Mountain Recreation Area, and with easy access to the popular Clark Fork River Trail System, nature lovers are able to live their dreams in this neighborhood. With close proximity to the city but with the simple charm of the country, the Orchard Homes / Emma Dickinson offers a perfect environment for growing gardens and growing families.
Melissa Fisher is a freelance writer for the Missoulian Advertising Department.