Friday, December 4, 2020

The future is here…

If we look close enough, the future is close enough to taste.

The only way to change it is to stay involved and keep pushing. And that goes for every member of the community, whether a 50-year resident, a second homeowner or someone who just arrived from Boulder to put their kids in school. That has always been a blessing of this community. People care and everyone can get involved if they choose. We respect each other and jump in to shape our future the best we can. We aren’t going to stop the changes but we can move them a bit here and there if we try.

 

Crested Butte Mountain Resort opens in less than a week and it feels like we are in mid-spring, with the weather forecast calling for predominantly sunny skies, some rain possible this weekend and daily high temperatures all above freezing. Welcome to Global Weirding and a future that will impact a community that relies significantly on a winter ski resort. I’m a huge fan of lift-served skiing, the ski village vibe and hope it won’t ever go away. I love this time of year as we feel the energy of a new season beginning and the opportunity to welcome people here to have fun in our mountains. But those winter seasons are shrinking.

While instinctually it makes little sense climate-wise (and can be sort of hypocritical for some) to live at 9,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains and run a ski resort that flies in people for its economy, doing what we can to address climate change is a good thing for the future of this community. Putting a solar farm that generates locally sourced renewable energy at the entrance to town is a wise move. Like having a community school and the Red Lady Estates affordable housing at the very entrance to Crested Butte, a solar array will also communicate a good message about the values of this community now and into the future.

As for guiding the tourism future, we have already started the shift to making summer more of an important part of the economy than disappearing winters. And we have learned that our copious open spaces are a valued asset and in pandemic times, more important than, say, a jazz festival. We are helping to protect our future with things like the formation of the Crested Butte Conservation Corps.

 

COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing throughout Colorado, including in Gunnison County. We seem to have a better handle on the management of the cases than most but this virus is so unpredictable no one is quite sure from one day to the next what will come from it. Our goal now is to keep the local health care system open—and we are doing that. But that takes vigilance, even with the welcome word that vaccines will be available soon in the future. Let’s not fall down the rabbit hole of doom by having giant holiday gatherings or throwing out our masks. If we keep doing the work—stay socially distanced, wear a mask in public, wash our hands a lot—we can get to the vaccine future without shutting down. Let’s keep those ski lifts turning now so we can all be happy through the season.

 

There are about a half dozen “For Rents” in the classifieds this week, along with dozens of “Help Wanted” ads. That is the norm for most resort towns and we have hit it. Housing prices in the north valley are sky-high, with $3 million homes more available than the old crappy mining shacks that a local worker used to be able to afford and fix up.

There are solid affordable housing developments on the drawing board or going up at both ends of the valley. The next one will likely involve the Corner at Brush Creek property and the county-owned property across the highway. The owners of the properties might begin collaborating on a workable master plan for those parcels sooner rather than later. One concrete step would be to conduct a water study this winter and see what really is available for housing in a dry season.

 

One errant swipe of a backhoe near Cimarron took down our internet and cell service last week for about 10 hours. That’s not the long-term future but it frankly could happen again tomorrow… and that’s a flashback to the past. While some really enjoyed going back in time with little contact with the outside world, some freaked out since 911 capabilities went down, along with Google. There have been plans for years to get some broadband redundancy into and out of the county but it isn’t done yet. I personally didn’t miss the internet for a day but I also understand the dilemma for those who work online throughout the world or are always close to a phone to dial 911 because of consistent health issues. The bottom line is that this place isn’t choosing to head back to 1995, so our future needs some failsafe measures and people are working to get them. We don’t want to deal with a dude in a backhoe shutting us down forever.

 

The one thing that appears settled for us and our future is that the GV2H PAC campaign signs for Trudy and Dave might be with us forever. While most of the other local campaign signs were taken down along the highway within a week of Election Day, the GV2H red, white and blue has stayed put. Why they remain to remind the owners of a landslide loss is something I don’t understand. The PAC had more than $29K in their coffers the last time I checked so maybe they could spend some of it on dismantling those signs and brighten up everyone’s future drive down the highway…

 

The future always involves change and Lord knows this place is seeing it come fast and furious. Warmer weather, higher housing prices, more people moving here and visiting here. The goal is not to stop it all but to guide that change. It’s a constant battle and it only goes so far—the days of the free market $100,000 single-family home are gone—but we can figure stuff out and take actions to move to the future we want. We can determine how best to slow down spreading the coronavirus; we can find solid ways to keep workers living near their jobs in the north end of the valley; we can spend our money on projects that mitigate climate change; we can figure out our infrastructure needs, whether they include a sewer plant or a second fiber line.

The future is here now with climate change, with housing issues, with COVID. You can taste it.

 

—Mark Reaman

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