New Trails and Old Tales: That’s What Bonner is Made Of


I occasionally enjoy taking the scenic route home to Bonner from Missoula, just to see what is new. I drive via the old highway 10, which meanders  through East Missoula, past Marshall Mountain, into West Riverside, over the bridge to Milltown, and then on into Bonner. Looking back through the rear view mirror of the past twenty years, the physical transformation of the landscape has been remarkable. What once was undeveloped acreage in Bandmann Flats now sits the polished and manicured Canyon River Golf Course and community. As I drive by Marshall Mountain, memories of night skiing take me back to my college days when life was more freestyle in every way .

Today a new scene emerges as I approach West Riverside. A fresh pedestrian trail is materializing at highway 10 and Tamarack road which heads east.

New Trials and Old Tales Bonner Jen Slayden

Photo by Jen Slayden

The trail is part of a larger project by the Montana DOT , with the purpose of controlling the heavy traffic adjoining the intersections of old highway 10 and Highway 200 off the Bonner exit, where a new stoplight will be placed across from Town Pump. The signal is scheduled to be in operation by this summer. The construction also involves rerouting traffic from old highway 10 and 1st street to improve safety for pedestrians and residents in the West Riverside area.

Eventually, this pedestrian trail will be a larger part of a vision from long time West Riverside residents to connect remaining stretches of old highway 10 to merge with the trail at Bandmann Flats and onto to the Kim Williams trail which connects all the way to Missoula. There are also dreams for trails further east of Turah and up the Blackfoot River corridor. Efforts continue to be made to secure funding for these future ped/bike paths.

The end of this new trail in West Riverside connects to the historic Black Bridge, and the long awaited Milltown State Park which is slated to open in the near future. “Milltown State Park features more than 500 acres of terrain, ranging from restored river bottoms to a pine forested bluff overlooking the confluence. The park will afford visitors a place to go hiking, biking, fishing, floating and watching for birds and wildlife. The park will include trails, picnic shelters and river access points, ” writes Mike Kustudia, Manager of Milltown State Park.

Bonner Montana Jen Slayden

Milltown 1915 PC Bonner Milltown History Center and Museum

As we eagerly await the Milltown State park to open, we continue to celebrate the accomplishment of the removal of the Milltown Dam, the cleanup of our community, and the Piltzville trail, which was built by the EPA for safe passageway to Bonner School for the local students. This year will mark the 8th annual Superfun(d) Run, which was the brainchild of the Milltown Superfund Redevelopment Working Group and later passed over to Friends of Two Rivers in partnership with Run Wild Missoula, with Race Director Sue Furey at the helm.

I am honored to be co-directing this year’s race with Alice Whiteman, which will be held this Saturday, April 23, starting at 9am. The Superfun(d) Run has grown throughout the years to become a celebration which brings together many key members of the community to both educate and celebrate the rich history of the Bonner/Milltown community. The family-centered fun run, 5k and10k coincides each year around Earth Day.

Friends of Two Rivers

Photo by Jen Slayden

The Superfun(d) Run is made possible by generous donors who recognize the importance of healthy and fun family activities in the greater Missoula area. Because of their generosity, kids through 8th grade run for free. This year’s key sponsors are: KC and Jenn Brewington, Double J Construction, and Missoula Federal Credit union.

Community runs aren’t successful without community support. Our Savior’s Lutheran church (where the race starts and finishes) is offering an affordable pancake breakfast and craft sale after the event. The new owners of the Bonner Mill are stepping up to contribute money for Bonner student participants to eat for free. River City Grill is contributing to the breakfast as well. Bonner school teacher and track coach Jami Fabatz has worked hard to encourage participation from students, as has teacher and cross-country coach Kristin Vogel, who’s younger students crafted the mile markers for the event.

Many of us who have witnessed the countless changes in and around our community see the  pedestrian and bike trails as much more than dirt and asphalt. We see them as path forward to a revitalized and healthy community. We recognize the deep, and sometimes complicated history of the Bonner/Milltown greater area, and appreciate the significance of the first settlers of the region who walked the paths before us, including the  Salish, Pend D’Oreille, Nez Perce and others.

Salish Chief Jen Slayden

Salish Chief Sam Resurrection fished in the Milltown area well into the 20th Century.Native Americans were the early users of the area now called Milltown, Bonner, and West Riverside. PC: Bonner Milltown History Center and Museum

Packet pick up and registration available, Friday, April 22nd, 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. – Run Wild Missoula offices (basement 304 N. Higgins Ave). Registration will cost $30, or $28 for RWM members (9th grade and up).

Packet pick up and race day registration will be also available at the race start at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Bonner Saturday, from 8:00 – 9 a.m. (1 mile fun run registration ends at 8:45 a.m.) Race day registration will cost $30, or $28 for RWM members.

Happy Trails!

Bonner Trail Jen Slayden

Photo by Jen Slayden


Jennifer Slayden bioJen Slayden wears many hats: Mother, Real Estate Agent with Main Street Realty, teacher for the non profit music program Center for Music, UM alumni, runner, and supporter of all things local. Her RealChange program dedicates a generous amount of her Real Estate commissions to be given back locally to organizations of her client’s choice. You can find her on Facebook, or give her a call at 406-370-0300.