Upper Rattlesnake

(northeast Missoula)

Rattlesnake Missoula MontanaLocation: Fills the rest of the Rattlesnake Valley north of Lolo Street.

Character: Suburban, some rural

Features: Entrance to Rattlesnake Wilderness, located at the base of Mount Jumbo

Public Schools: Rattlesnake Elementary

Parks: Hamilton, Tom Greene, Pineview, Syringa, Papoose

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A Growing Community
Pedestrian-bicycle trail next on the agenda for the Rattlesnake Area

By Greg Martin for Real Estate Marketplace

Rattlesnake Missoula Montana
KRISTA MILLER LARSON / for the MissoulianDon and Marilynn Partain sip iced tea outside their Upper Rattlesnake home Thursday evening. “Between the upper and lower Rattlesnake, we have everything here except a dentist,” says Marliynn. “That’s the only reason you would need to leave.”

Whether it’s the popular recreational destination of the Rattlesnake trailhead, the new urban development of Appleview Drive, the open space of Rattlesnake Gardens, the playgrounds of Rattlesnake Elementary School or the elegance of the Ten Spoon Vineyard, the terrain that makes up Missoula’s Upper Rattlesnake neighborhood is eclectic and scenic.

A changing, dynamic area of Missoula – one that encapsulates both the urban and the natural elements of the city that many find so attractive – the Rattlesnake is experiencing a flurry of community activity but also the pains of growth. As more people call the area home, concerns are growing about traffic – pedestrian, bicycle and automotive.

Most acutely felt is the need for safe travel for non-motorized transportation. Neighborhood resident Caroline Lonski compiled data that showed some of the most dangerous areas along Rattlesnake Drive – where pedestrians or bicyclists are sharing the road with 45-mph traffic – fell along the “walk to school” route.

To address that issue, the Upper Rattlesnake Neighborhood Association is using their neighborhood project funds to pay for a feasibility study for a pedestrian-bicycle trail that would cover the part of Rattlesnake Drive that jogs northeast and turns into Upper Rattlesnake Drive. Lonksi and other residents want to see a trail for the entire Rattlesnake Drive – from Van Buren Street to the trailhead – but she said this is a critical place to start.

“We have to provide a safe way for the kids to get to school,” she said.

It’s telling of the Upper Rattlesnake that the entrance to the neighborhood includes a farm pasture across the street from it’s southern border, Lolo Street. Neighbors Marilynn and Don Partain live right next to the pasture on Murray Street.

“Nestled near the base of Mount Jumbo, our home enjoys both the pastoral pleasures of rural life and the bustle of humanity,” they said. The Partains and their seven children moved into their red house on Murray Street in 1991, arriving “loudly and large” with the activity of children and their pets and friends. The heavy traffic of teenagers (and the cars that come and go as a result) as well as youth activities held at their house and the day care they ran for a while, made for a noticeable presence.

“Yet our neighbors never cease to smile, wave, chat, visit and even like us,” they said.

Over the course of the 19 years that they’ve lived there, the Partains have made “lots of tracks” and they’ve even suffered some tough times such as when, in 2001, a fire broke out in the kitchen and did extensive damage. Again, though, their neighbors were there – people from all over the Rattlesnake valley would come by to help, they said, many they didn’t even know.

It was through experiences like that, as well as less traumatic times, that the Partains learned to appreciate their life in the Upper Rattlesnake neighborhood.

“This quiet, farm-like corner of the city has seen our children grow up and now is a playground for our grandchildren,” they said. “The sound of the summer breezes blowing down the slope of Mount Jumbo; the friendly hub of activity surrounding Rattlesnake Gardens as we grab a morning coffee; the easy, brisk walk to the creek; the bustle of traffic on Rattlesnake Drive….; the bear cubs and wild turkeys sharing turf with the horses and deer…; the view of the sun-kissed cap of Stuart Peak from our living room window; and the neighbors – these wonderful people we see every day – are the treasures of our home,” they said. “And they are priceless.”

Greg Martin is a freelance writer for the Missoulian.