The ideal world, the real world and “more”

In an ideal world there would be no line at the Crested Butte post office when you find a yellow slip in your PO Box. And if there was a line, it would be short and filled with people you like, who owe you money, and all have cash they want to give you immediately.

In an ideal world there would be no parents dropping their kids off at school or picking them up after class in a car. No. Every kid would either walk or ride a bike to school or take the magic bus from their house, whether that house is a block away or somewhere in Crested Butte South. Now, a Crested Butte South first grader would have to start the walk pretty early, but that’s part of living here.

In an ideal world, a similar situation would take place out Peanut Lake Road. If you want to use that road to get to the Lower Loop, then walk or ride a bike.

In an ideal world there would be so much country in the backcountry that people who want to ski could have their own backcountry pod where electric, non-polluting and silent snowmobiles would easily take them to the ridge of the finest deep powder fields in Colorado. The silent trackers would have their own backcountry pod where those who want only human-powered alternatives would gather to not talk and simply nod at their quiet good fortune as they are surrounded by beauty and silence.

In an ideal world every property owner would house their favorite local worker in every accessory dwelling or every spare bedroom in the valley and receive enough money to pay the mortgage or at least get deep discounts at every local business. The perfect amount of workers would live in town and there would be no need for “free” buses or deed restrictions. Or at least previous town councils and county commissions would have thought of every affordable housing alternative and implemented clear and effective rules that solved every housing problem well into the future with no questions from newbies who move here.

In the ideal world there would be no lawsuits or even disputes … never mind ….

In the real world the more people who choose to live or visit this increasingly accessible mountain village, the more likely compromises are needed to keep the place not ideal, but pretty dang good.

In the real world more people order more things online from Amazon. And in a small town without home mail delivery that means more (constant) lines at the post office during the holidays. I see the people working there making extraordinary efforts to deal with the holiday cluster and they come in early and stay late and open the parcel window on weekends to try to help us all get our stuff. I’d give them a metaphorical hug for what they are going through right now…but the line is too long.

In the real world, parents like to deliver their kids to school safely—and as the school has attracted more families to the upper valley, there are more traffic issues in the neighborhood. I showed up to watch the mayhem one morning last week and didn’t witness any catastrophe. It was really busy for ten or so minutes but actually seemed pretty orderly. The crossing guard was stellar, the drivers cognizant, the kids (mostly) aware. That spot is where we as a community decided to place our school. I was on council at the time the town bought the old ranch on the edge of town and that location for a school was meant in part as a statement that it was important to have a real school at the entrance to our real town. The number of kids going to school these days is closing in on the number of total people who lived in town back then. So maybe it wasn’t the best decision for the future. I heard the neighbors loud and clear on that topic last week. And if parents are blocking a driveway when residents are trying to leave, that’s not cool. So maybe the next step in relieving some of the cluster as the school grows even more is thinking about building a new middle school in Crested Butte South instead of adding more to the current campus.

In the real world, people want to experience the uniqueness of the Lower Loop single track. They want to see that iconic view of Paradise Divide we all crow about. Grandparents want to stroll with their grandkids and follow the StoryWalk trail. Like most Americans, they want to get as close as they can before starting their “experience” instead of risking a little kid meltdown. In the real world, people like the convenience a vehicle provides.

In the real world, the most beautiful and serene backcountry near to Crested Butte proper holds some of the best backcountry ski terrain. That brings snowmobilers and backcountry skiers who use snowmobiles to the same place as Nordic skiers and people on snowshoes. That does not make for a quiet, compatible experience.

In the real world, the town changed the rules on some property owners who have deed-restricted units. While the intent was to have those places filled with workers, the original rules simply did not say that. It basically prohibited them from being short-term rentals but did not say they had to be rented to workers. Few people believe that changing rules in the middle of any game for any purpose is fair for anyone. Not having super clear rules at the outset is the rule-maker’s fault, not the property owner’s fault. So while not perfect, to reach a settlement in the ADU lawsuit against Crested Butte that helps fill the coffers of the town affordable housing fund is a win. The town can then do what it wants with new regulations and opportunities instead of depending on interpretation and intent. Emotionally, I understand the angst people feel in town about the settlement. But the proposed ADU lawsuit settlement actually is a good, practical solution in the long run. And I know that choosing something “practical” will bum out some locals—but it works as more and more people come here.

In fact, there’s a lot more “more” in Crested Butte these days. My guess is “more” is the root cause of a lot of the “issues” with which we are dealing. More people, more interaction, more technology making it all easier.

There has never been a true “ideal world” with any of the things that are ticking people off at the moment. But the small town value of trying to work it out needs to stay front and center. If more kids ride the bus or ultimately don’t have to travel to the same spot every morning, that’s a win. If people can stay smiling in the inevitable holiday post office line while patting the beleaguered workers on the back, that’s a win. If the town can get significant money to deal with affordable housing issues from property owners who were thrown a monkey wrench after a deal was struck, that is a win. The ideal world up here at 9,000 feet is still one where we try to figure stuff out—respectfully.

In an ideal world, we learn from past mistakes. Keeping this a good place for us means making things work as it all changes … because tomorrow will no doubt bring us “more.” In the meantime, I’m hoping that guy who owes me money is in the post office line the same time I am.

—Mark Reaman

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