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Town survey indicates citizens concerned about change

Weigh in on the future of Crested Butte

By Mark Reaman

More than 750 people have so far responded to the Crested Butte Community Survey but the goal is get more than 1,000 responses by the end of August. The 20-question survey is a broad poll on what people want to see as the town grows. Initial responses appear to center on awareness of the changes Crested Butte is experiencing and about how to shape the changes into the future.

More than 70 percent of the respondents described themselves as “outdoor enthusiasts” and almost 12 percent said they could be described as a “ski bum.” So far, about 30 percent of those who have responded live in Crested Butte. Another 37 percent live in the north end of the valley. The rest live south of Round Mountain, on the Front Range, or out of state.

Several questions allowed respondents to select more than one choice for an answer so percentages don’t necessarily add up to 100 percent. When asked what “kind of community” they want to see in 20 years, almost half said they wanted the town to be able to “accommodate responsible growth without losing its unique historical character.” Another 41 percent said they wanted town to have a “balanced economy with good jobs and attainable housing.” Only 17 percent said they wanted town to remain like it is 20 years from now.

As for the greatest local challenges Crested Butte is now facing, it probably comes as no surprise that lack of workforce or attainable housing tops the list, with 52 percent saying it is an issue.

Other challenges topping the list include maintaining quality of life with a balance between being a community and being a resort. General affordability and cost of living in the area also received significant clicks of concern from respondents.

Supporting existing businesses was the most popular answer to the question about what town’s priorities should be regarding economic development. Diversifying from a tourist-based economy to a broader year-round mixed economy also received popular support.

Parking congestion also surfaced as an issue, with survey respondents saying that traffic congestion and parking availability is a problem, especially in the summer. The solution from those who took the survey was to develop an intercept parking lot near town with public transit; create more parking lots in town; or change “user behavior instead of investing in new capital improvement projects.”

Overall, people say they like the small-town feel and mountain environment that is part of Crested Butte. They also value the outdoor recreation and the people.

“People can remain anonymous when taking the survey so it feels like we are getting pretty honest feedback,” said Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman. “The news about Vail purchasing CBMR  broke about the time we opened up the survey so that seems to have impacted the responses, especially at the beginning. But we are getting a good steady stream of people taking the survey.”

Crested Butte town planner Bob Nevins said it is obvious people are feeling the impacts of a changing community but for the most part they don’t want to build a wall. “It seems a pretty mature outlook,” he said. “People see change is coming but they want to try to guide it responsibly.”

As would be expected, the opportunity to include written comments always makes for interesting reading. Some examples include:  “All council members should take economics classes and learn how economies work;” “Don’t let tourism ruin our town;” “Do NOT build more infrastructure in an effort to turn it into a city;” “Your values are way too far to the left;” “The class division is so apparent and only going to get worse;” “CB and Gunnison should embrace their serendipity;” “They say ‘No’ a lot to most items on the agenda;” “Important to keep it a place that is accessible to more than just the 1%;” “No paid parking downtown;” “Quit being so progressive;” and “Open the portal to Somerset, mine the Red Lady, quit being wimps and put up a statue of the 45th president. Embrace Vail and connect the mountain with a Gondola.”

No word yet on where council stands on that last comment.

Anyone is eligible to take part in the survey. Physical surveys are available at the coffee shops in town. A link to the survey is on the town website or you can simply go to crestedbuttesurvey.com.

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