Great Falls: One Young Person’s View, Part 3

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Recently, my wife and I have been looking into a potential job opportunity in Helena. While I haven’t been interviewed yet, it has given us the opportunity to explore what moving back to Montana would look like. We have visited Kalispell, which has grown to be massive compared to what I remember as a young kid. We have stayed in Havre while I working for a couple weeks at the Guard Armory earlier this month, and we stopped in Helena for business and to explore our possible new home. And then we stayed a few days in Great Falls in order to visit family.

When visiting Kalispell, Angie made the observation that it seemed very similar to a nice Canadian town. In other words, it was growing, bustling, and had a good balance between older people and younger people. One of her favourite observations was the fact that it had all the hope and character of a successful Canadian towns, and we could carry a gun! It was that moment I realized that she would make a wonderful Montanan, but perhaps I’m just biased.

We also visited Helena, which had a bustling outdoor mall, lots of beautiful land, and well-kept lawns and seemingly safe areas. I know every town has its bad areas, but nobody can tell me that Helena is in a worse spot than Great Falls.

When we came back to Great Falls, we passed by cops surrounding a house, an ambulance, and a dozen homeless folks in order to get to my mother’s apartment across from the Civic Centre. It was evening, and there were already drunk people galore (it was Friday, admittedly), and a lot of chaos on Central Avenue. It really bummed us out seeing the comparison.

What breaks my heart is the fact of how awesome Great Falls could be. Like I said earlier, it has the most amazing outdoors not even five minutes out of town. There is a legendary river that splits Great Falls in half, a beautiful view of several dams, and Giant Springs park is nothing to underestimate. Great Falls has amazing characteristics.

If we can realize that there is something wrong with Great Falls and make steps to better it, maybe young people like myself will move back to it. In the meantime, however, I have to think about my wife and soon-to-be-born son. As a young adult, husband, and parent, I feel that moving to Great Falls isn’t in the best interests of my family, which is sad. I really want my hometown to grow and be the awesome place it could be!

How do we do that?

First, electing city commissioners that represent the desires of the citizens of the city. To do that, we need to encourage people (young and old) to vote. We need to show people that their vote count. Even my absentee vote way up here in Saskatchewan counts.

“First, electing city commissioners that represent the desires of the citizens of the city. To do that, we need to encourage people (young and old) to vote. We need to show people that their vote count. Even my absentee vote way up here in Saskatchewan counts.”

Second, we need to market our city to businesses, not just non-profits and a slaughterhouse. We want really nice schools and a really awesome bustling downtown? We’re going to need more businesses boosting this city’s worth.

Third, either we need to get our streets safe. Honestly, I have no idea how we do that. I’m not afraid to admit that I’d like your input on how we do that!

Fourth, we need to encourage transparency and further citizen participation in city government decisions. Whether that be at the school district, city commission, or even at some random committee about garbage trucks or something. We need to get involved, and the city needs to realize that they serve the sixty-something thousand people that make Great Falls home before that becomes a fraction of that number.

I am still a proud Montana American, and I am excited to see what the future holds for Great Falls. In Bible College here in Canada, I have had some change some things. From me changing to the fancy British spelling of the word “theatre” to leaving all my guns in Great Falls and adopting the word “eh” as part of my vocabulary (kidding), I have had to make a lot of changes while living up here and respecting the Canadian way of life.

However, when I cross the border and enter America, I arguably must say I’m most excited that I am back in Montana, where I can shoot my guns, fish all I want, hunt all I want, hike all I want, and see some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth. In my opinion, there is almost no place better than Montana. Let’s make it to where there’s no place better than Great Falls.

Part 3 is the conclusion of Scott Miller’s essay.

Posted by Scott Miller

Originally from Great Falls, MT, Scott is a student at Briercrest College and Seminary in Caronport, Saskatchewan, member of the Montana Army National Guard, and a proud Montana native. (Pictured with wife Angie)

Reader interactions

One Reply to “Great Falls: One Young Person’s View, Part 3”

  1. I agree with Scott on pretty much everything he writes here. My wife and I, retirement age and living in Great Falls for almost thirty years, aren’t sure, for the very reasons Scott mentions, that we want to retire here. Living in the same home on the east-side for almost thirty years, infrastructure maintenance or improvement has been non-existent. Crumbling curbs, cracked sidewalks, pot-holed streets, and neglected boulevard trees never change. Basic ordinance enforcement is also nearly non-existent even though police are in our neighborhood most days unsuccessfully dealing with scofflaws living in one of our neighborhood’s worst rentals. What appear to be abandoned vehicles rest all over our small east-side community, their license plates expired for up to four years. Decrepit motor homes and travel trailers, parked randomly and rarely moved, line our streets, the annual street-sweeper swerving around them, leaving gravel, broken glass, pop and beer bottles, soft drink containers and fast-food wrappers in their wake. We’ve walked every morning for the past 27 years; nowadays, we alter our route to avoid unrestrained and sometimes vicious dogs Great Falls’ Animal Control can’t seem to control. Unlicensed cats as well as rabbits, pigeons and squirrels roam throughout our area at will, leaving their calling cards behind. Some of our neighbors refuse to maintain their properties, volunteer grass, weeds and seedling trees growing between their fences and ours up to five feet tall. City ordinances state the types, height, construction and placement of property fences as local violators deliberately defy these ordinances with apparent impunity. Something we can count on, though, is a new bond issue or levy every year or two, raising our property taxes and dividing our citizens. Becoming involved in any type of corrective process is much more difficult, I think, than Scott imagines. Sadly, our once beautiful town continues to deteriorate.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *