Sometimes understanding perspective is difficult in the moment. It is sort of like living every day with a grade school kid and not noticing that he or she is growing. But if you are a friend and not a parent and happen to run into that kid after a couple of months, the change can sometimes be dramatic.
So, when you or your kids are reading the “20 Years Ago Today” column in the paper in 2036, it might show that these last few weeks or months in 2016 were probably pretty momentous to the town. These are indeed interesting times. You might not see it every day but the kid is changing pretty fast right now.
—If we are lucky, this could be the year that the threat of a mine on Red Lady is forever gone. The steps are in place to make that a reality. For 40 years, the community has had a fighting chip on its shoulder as the people have relentlessly fought the idea of a molybdenum mine on Mt. Emmons.
But now, if Crested Butte citizens approve a $2 million ballot issue this fall (that won’t raise any taxes) and the pieces fall into place with mining company Freeport McMoRan, the U.S. Congress and the president of the United States, there could be a permanent withdrawal of any mining of minerals on that mountain. It sounds pretty far-fetched but it could actually happen. The town is ready, the mining company appears ready and the politics with our U.S. senators and representatives could come together. It would be pretty incredible for the pieces to fall into place but it appears there is a real shot. Even if the voters approve the issue, there would still be a lot of heavy lifting to do, but it will be as close as we’ve come in decades. So let’s make it happen.
To take the communal mind shift from a community fighting for its spiritual mountain against global mining interests to a community walking hand-in-hand with an international mining company to focus on mine-related remediation and improved water quality is huge. What will that do to our general community reputation? Will we go from jumping into immediate fighting stance on almost anything to cooperation in all aspects of community? Will the loss of a mining threat put the place into resort hyper-drive?
It seems to me that it would be a significant change of attitude and one that will benefit future generations of Crested Butte. Like getting a high school back in town, it is certain to bring significant change to the community and it should be a major change for the better. This is exciting stuff if those pieces fall into place and it will start with how the citizens of Crested Butte cast their votes this November. We will look closer at this throughout the fall.
—Last week the Crested Butte Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) approved an expanded Crested Butte Center for the Arts. It will be a big building in Town Park and one that can cater to the growing variety of arts in the upper valley. It is not a small project and there is still a lot of work to be done. But if the money can be raised to complete the new facility, it should prime the pump for the north end of the valley to really make the arts an even more valuable piece of the spiritual and economic makeup of Crested Butte. Add to that the fact that the Mt. Crested Butte Biery-Witt Center is close to its fundraising goal and the community could end up with two major arts facilities in the near future. That’s a lot of art potential for a small town.
—The first big affordable housing complex began filling up last month. Anthracite Place provides a spot for low-income folks trying to stay here and make a life and a living. As Crested Butte becomes more and more expensive—and with no mine threat and better arts facilities—that will likely continue at an even faster pace. It’s no longer easy for ski bum types to buy a place up here. That’s a sad reality and why we need subsidized affordable housing. There will always be a need for such projects if you want the town and valley to be able to keep workers living in the broader community and not commuting from Montrose or wherever. Not every resort community has places for the dishwashers, the bus drivers and the musicians to reside. It is important to this town to keep workers living here and Anthracite Place provides such an opportunity.
In that vein, this is the week the first locals were able to go under contract for deed-restricted affordable housing lots on blocks 79 and 80 in town. These will be tilted more toward families and young professionals who want to make the commitment to stay here. That is another step in the struggle to keep the community real.
—The new Sixth Street Station proposal made it through its first BOZAR review last week. It is not a done deal by any means but the developers are no longer asking for a zoning change. They are looking at a number of hotel beds that might alleviate some VRBO-type mania inside the town limits. It too would be a big building and it would certainly be the new focal point for the northwest part of town.
—The Cypress Foothills developers received the first major county approval for their proposed “hybrid” development that entails a potential town annexation and some more county home sites just to the north of the current Crested Butte boundaries. The public land that is part of the proposed deal could include a school site, an emergency services center such as a fire hall, parks, river access and affordable housing. It too will have a big impact on the look and feel of the community.
—There is the fact that for the first time ever, more than 700 students enrolled this year in the Crested Butte Community School. Families seem to have figured out that living in a small town with a great educational opportunity is unique in this country. Throw in the ski area and countless outdoor amenities (and now a faster growing arts community and hopefully no threat of a mine) and the attraction probably won’t go away for people with the means to resettle in a good mountain village with their kids.
—Add in the hiring this week of a brand new Crested Butte town manager to guide a lot of these new developments, the state coming to the Town Council this month to start to solidify a Red Lady roundabout plan, the idea of developing a camping area in Avalanche Park, more buses serving both ends of the valley and CB South, a potential new Kapushion subdivision development in town, marijuana becoming a booming business throughout the county, the county shifting to power its vehicles with compressed natural gas, the ski area looking to expand into Teo 2—and who knows what else is brewing under the radar. There is no shortage of big changes happening right now.
Now to be frankly honest, not all of these changes are going to be great for everyone. If you live here and saw a future job at a mine, the change isn’t helping you. The prices of real estate in the valley always go up—and then go down—but I would imagine the floor is getting higher.
So while you may feel things are shifting a bit and the town is becoming a bit more gentrified, I think the real perspective is that we are in the midst of some major potential changes for the community. The details are still not settled on every issue. So if you want to look back at the “20 Years Ago Today” column in 2036 and help determine what it says—and how this place evolves —now is the time to jump in and help shape the big changes that are now happening. As the old Chinese saying goes … We are living in interesting times.