We traveled through eastern Montana (M200, M24, US2) to East Glacier, MT. Lots of nice, wide open country, but lots of towns that prosperity has either never found or has departed from. Sustainability means something different in small towns in the plains than it does in sprawling suburbs. The suburbs worry about becoming too similar to everywhere else, the small towns worry about staying alive.
On the east side of Glacier National Park is the Blackfeet Reservation, which has not been smiled upon by prosperity. According to the tribe’s website, 2009 should mark a turnaround toward alleviating the crushing unemployment rate the tribe has been suffering from. I hope so.
The town of East Glacier is a nice, small resort town. We have a new-found appreciation for the old-school motor-court motels one finds in such places.
Comparing the east and west side of the park demonstrates the economic advantages of being close to a major destination. Because the closer, major population centers are to the west, more more park visitors come in from the west and thus the communities to the west of the park are prospering. Lesson: if you get to pick which side of a destination your town situated, pick the side through which a greater number of affluent visitors travel.