Target Range

target-range

Down the country roads in the Target Range Neighborhood, you can travel back into Missoula’s history.

Just across the Missoula city border is a large, historically rural neighborhood where large farm and ranch properties meld with more densely constructed residential homes. Even in these more traditional neighborhoods there is a real sense of country living that is attractive and unique to the Target Range Neighborhood. With very few commercial businesses in the neighborhood, traffic is fairly light. The main transactions that are taking place out this way occur at Dale’s Dairy, the market and local landmark famous for its giant cow out front. You may even encounter a tractor or two on the country roads. Horses graze in pastoral fields. Residents work in their gardens. Weathered, yet stately barns are still in use. Morning lawn mowers move in contrast to farm-scale tillers. Kids play little league, learn to ride Western, and have open land, riverfront, and mountain hideaways as their own playground. In the Target Range Neighborhood, there is a wonderful mix of preservation and appreciation for a collective country life that’s not too far from the rest of Missoula, but still maintains its rural sensibility.

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The Target Range Neighborhood is alive with natural wonder and homegrown pride.

target-range-live-hereTarget Range’s rural respite remains fairly peaceful, although the neighborhood picks up when the school bells ring. Of course foot traffic increases during the Missoula Marathon too, but other than that it’s pretty quiet. Target Range neighbors happily share in their good fortune of living extremely close to the convergence of the Clark Fork and Bitterroot Rivers. They even have their own access point toKelly Island. Kids here grow up learning about the natural world that resides right in their own backyard. Neighbors can also cross the historic one-lane bridge to get to the Blue Mountain Recreation Area. This is a well-used system of trails that is extremely popular for off-leash dog walking. Birdwatchers and nature lovers in the area will be amazed by the 80-acreTower Street Open Space Park. This land was placed under protection as part of Missoula’s open space effort in 2001 to preserve the riparian area along the Clark Fork, which is rich with cottonwood, aspen, and willows, and provides bird and wildlife habitat. To preserve the agricultural heritage of the area, some residents are involved with Land Link Montana. This organization works to make viable the prospects of farming and ranching for the next generation in order to continue the legacy of a successful agricultural industry within the state. The sporting life plays a big role in the Target Range Neighborhood. Many anglers and hunters enjoy the proximity of the rivers and the public hunting lands nearby. For organized athletics, Target Range is a destination, particularly for aspiring major leaguers taking to the diamond at the Westside Little League fields and the American Legion fields near Spurgin Park. Horse enthusiasts can ride at the 100-acre Missoula Equestrian Park on 42nd Street. Run by the Missoula Horsemen’s Council, the park is a non-profit organization with trails, a track, facilities for jumping, and several arenas for riding instruction, practice, and events. The Park even offers a class in backcountry riding for those who like to explore Montana’s wilderness on horseback. The Target Range Homeowners Association has achieved many improvements to the area, including the installation of a trail system paralleling South Avenue and the restoration of the McClay Bridge – that one-lane crossing traversing the Bitterroot River leading to Blue Mountain. They are also working toward the structural restoration of The Little White School House, formerly the Target Range School. The building still stands, but is in need of repair to be used as a community center and museum. Keeping this piece of history in the neighborhood is crucial to preserving the heritage of Target Range. In fact, another association project is dedicated to gathering historical information and memorabilia of the neighborhood. This includes the history of Target Range’s dairies, information on the old neighborhood families, as well as menus from long ago local restaurants. Another major project that is coming to fruition is the establishment of a farmers’ market at the current Target Range School. There are several large production gardens in the neighborhood including the community gardens on Spurgin and several that are cultivated by Missoula’s Hmong community. Residents of the Target Range Neighborhood now won’t have far to travel for fresh produce and flowers. With all of the activity, the association does an excellent job of keeping residents up to date via their online newsletter, the Target Ranger. There is quite a lot of hard work that goes into preserving a neighborhood’s character. Target Range residents love their lifestyle and are determined to maintain it. Although it may seem spread out with miles of farm road and acres of land, this is a closely-knit community with common goals and a clear vision.

The Target Range Neighborhood got its name because that was what it was literally used for during Fort Missoula’s early days. Because one of their major missions during the military occupation of the Fort was artillery, soldiers stationed there would take aim at the McCauley Butte, a major Target Range landmark located just north of the Bitterroot River. The Little White Schoolhouse is as much a part of the Target Range Neighborhood as is the Bitterroot River. It is one of the oldest schools in Montana and was used as a school from 1893 up until the 1990′s. In front of the schoolhouse stands a stately cottonwood, about 86 feet tall. It’s the only remaining tree from a much larger grove that once shaded the school grounds and is more than 100 years old. Sadly the tree isn’t fairing well and the neighborhood is preparing to say its goodbyes to this landmark. Read more about the schoolhouse and the tree here. During prohibition, an alleged speakeasy called the Pepperpot existed in the old Kelly family home (as in Kelly island). Rumor had it that soldiers from Fort Missoula would truck the illicit alcohol under crates of strawberries, feigning a very special delivery indeed. Today the house is still known as the Pepperpot and Target Range history groups are working on gathering the facts and the legends surrounding the neighborhood’s underground past. Read more about other historical landmarks in the Target Range Neighborhood here.

Many of us remember the various ways we kept up on the comings and goings of our hometowns and neighborhoods. Whether it was through the grapevine, a community group, or the weekly newspaper, we had a resource for information and an outlet to share our thoughts. TheLiveMissoula! neighborhood blogs revisit that concept in a new way by providing an open, online destination where neighborhood stories can be posted and shared. To contribute to the discussion, we encourage you to add your comments. If you have an idea for a story, contact the Neighborhood Volunteer Advocate listed under each neighborhood’s Fast Facts pages.