For some reason, off-season snuck up on me this year. With pond skim chatter and the annual spectacle of the last bus of the ski season mooning its way down Elk Avenue (or rather, its passengers mooning their way down Elk), I should have seen it coming.

But once Monday rolled around, the signs were unmistakable: our managing editor off to Sedona, cars heading south on 135 with bikes strapped to the back, no lines at the coffee shop (I love that), and a total of about six things being sent in to the newspaper. The latter makes me feel like I must be doing something wrong, but surely there’s no way to mess up the refresh button.

I’ve always liked the idea of the spring exodus, but somehow I find myself in town every year. My first spring here, I didn’t think I’d make it through. Something about perfectly normal hillsides (some of them not even that big) becoming actual waterfalls, the near-constant sound of running water, and snow in May made me wonder how people lasted and stayed sane. Now, I actually welcome those signs, and when I see pictures of friends in the Midwest and on the East Coast, I marvel at the green grass, spring flowers, and short sleeves.

This year, I’ll actually be joining the pilgrimage to warmer climes, but until then, I enjoy the quiet. While it’s certainly not an easy time for local businesses to make money, there’s something about moving so freely through town that reminds me of why I moved here. I wanted to be so close to the trails that I didn’t have to drive to them. I wanted to see the mountains on my lunch break, not just Spring Break. And I wanted to live among people who knew how to take a break, and didn’t just run from thing to thing to thing and then wonder where life had gone.

Yet even as the off-season has arrived, I’ve seen many reminders that there’s still a lot going on in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley. Clocks seem to be ticking on some key issues—heavy use of the backcountry and affordable housing in particular—and some of the players in these issues are acting fast even as off-season settles in.

Dave Ochs and CBMBA have started making the rounds to raise funds for backcountry management in the form of a Crested Butte Conservation Corps, almost like a SWAT team ready to go in and repair trails, direct traffic, and deal with bandit camps and other issues.

Paula Swenson, interim director of the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority, has been visiting with Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte (plus Gunnison and the county) about affordable housing. She’s been securing funding to help research and plan for a possible ballot initiative this fall raising revenue for affordable housing.

The  Forest Service’s Aspen-Sopris Ranger District is currently accepting comments on a plan to manage use of popular backcountry locations like Conundrum Hot Springs. And in CB South, a meeting at Sunset Hall on Tuesday drew over 30 people to discuss issues with the current commercial area and ideas for its future. It was part of a process to update the Commercial Area Master Plan, taking a look at how the area can be best developed. The POA will also be sending a survey on the matter to homeowners in the next few weeks.

These issues have reminded me that even as our community continues to ebb and flow with the seasons, there are issues underpinning the community fabric that don’t take breaks.

Like me, you may be slowing down. Spending a little more time on a bench on Elk or heading to the desert yourself. Local government will slow down some too, as some meetings get rescheduled and councilmembers head out to play as well. Let’s relish this time. Summer will be here before we know it, and we need to feel recharged. But let’s also not check out and forget to keep paying attention—our voices are still needed, from backcountry use to affordable housing. Let’s make them heard, even if we are a little slower and little less rushed as we go about it.

—Alissa Johnson

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