Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Looking to grow its programs and support the downtown business district, the Clark Fork River Market plans to return to its old stomping grounds on the river lot this season.

Kaylee Nassiri, the market's executive director, said moving back to the river lot achieves a number of goals. Members of the City Council approved the request on Wednesday.

“I'm looking to expand the market back to its original location,” said Nassiri. “This space will allow us to accommodate more vendors. It also will allow us to have a compost program this season. We'll continue to promote live music and pay local musicians.”

The market was founded 19 years ago to promote local agriculture and food production. It focuses exclusively on western Montana products, providing vendors the opportunity to sell their food, both fresh and hot.

It also provides food under a number of programs, including WIC and SNAP. That gives low-income families access to local and sustainable food, said Nassiri.

“We're strongly committed to connecting local farmers and ranchers with people in our community,” said Nassiri. “By providing this opportunity, there's a meeting place for vendors to sell, and local families to purchase local, sustainable food.”

The market has grown over the years but was forced to relocate when NorthWestern Energy embarked on a $10 million project to upgrade its downtown power station. Construction of Beartracks Bridge also required the market's relocation, as the river lot was used to stage equipment.

But when the market opens this May, it will assume its old location, which also saw improvements from renovations to both the bridge and Caras Park.

“We're excited to push people up Higgins Avenue and Pattee Street to support local businesses,” said Nassiri. “It's also a lot safer for me and my team.”