Luck, love…and the Trade Parade

I’m the first to admit I’ve gotten lucky here. Lucky timing, lucky choices, lucky outcomes. I’d rather be lucky than good. My good fortune came into focus again last week as I headed to Gunnison for a morning appointment, and I witnessed hundreds of people heading north on Highway 135.

Luck has led to being able to live and make a life in a place I love where so many others want to but can’t. While fortunate to have experienced a taste of the old CB, I still love Crested Butte and all the valley offers. The people, the events, the mountains, the soft snow and spectacular summers, the small-town community that makes it one of the finer places on the planet. I love the restaurants and bars. I love the easy access to trails and skiing, the fact you can see people on bikes 12 months a year and costumes on people 13 months a year. 

What’s not to love about Upper Banana on a spring day in early February or fresh singletrack at Hartman’s in April? I love the great blue herons in the Slate and the bugling elk in the meadows in the fall. There’s the village school, the free buses, the vigorous debates over issues, the regular opportunity to randomly run into friends. 

I accept the changing community and truly enjoy the locals, second homeowners, lone eagles and tourists. All contribute to a deep community in the mountains. It’s not easy to live or even visit here. There’s an unspoken bond between those of us who choose this place. Being accepted here is earned and not something that can be bought…I love that. 

I appreciate being blessed to live here and to have raised a family in these mountains. It’s not as easy for people coming here now to think about making a life if they arrive like I did with 100 bucks in their pocket. It can be done, and I see people doing it, but it’s not easy. Honestly, it never was easy but it’s certainly harder now.

The lucky reality again came home to me as I went down to Gunnison last week to run the typical valley errands. I realized how lucky many of the “mid-timers” are as the up-valley commute was in full force and I scribbled some thoughts on what a friend described to me recently as the trade parade…

Heading south early in the morning to do errands in Gunni.

The roads are clear, the sky is sunny. Another day in Paradise.

Left hand turn on 135 takes less than five… but seems 15.

The line of traffic is moving fast, it’s the up-valley commuter dance…the trade parade.

28 miles, what seems like 2,800 vehicles.

Tundras and Outbacks, full buses and 4-Runners. Alpine ferrying tourists, Golden Eagle heading up to collect last week’s trash.

Extended cabs, covered beds, trailers with parts, skis on the rack for a lunch run to refill the heart.

SUVs, F-150s, Silverados, GMCs, all packed with tools, all burning gallons of fuel.

Most it seems with no more than one or two, an old sedan packed with what looks like six, still not sure what job they’ll do.

Panel vans with pipes and paint, pick-ups with ladders and shovels stacked straight.

Here comes the drywall. There go the windows.

A waitress wearing Sorels and down, coffee cups all around.

Baseball caps in the front seat, friends nodding off in the back.

It’s 8:20 and the trade parade merges with the Mad Mother 500.

Laborers heading to the job site, students heading to the soon to be expanded school…another property tax funded work site…for next year’s trade parade.

Dented Subarus fall in line behind the shiny Tesla X, Y and 3s.

Alpine Express buses, more RTA buses, Mountain Express by Clark’s, school buses from all directions…oh wait…not enough drivers to be found.

10 mph on the highway hill between Red Lady Ave. and Riverbend.

People on their phones looking at texts to send.

Waiting on Whetstone to solve the problem…

But will the trade parade just be shorter and do circles in the roundabout?

Do planners understand the plumber, the electrician, the shoveler and painter might have a work truck, a working spouse’s car, the high school kid’s beater, their skis and snowmobiles, bikes and boats and…?

Where do they keep their whole life if parking and space are sacrificed for the sustainable dream? Is providing a roof enough? Who will be here to fix their stuff, take their orders and service their needs?

Early morning heading south: Watching the commute-ity that is a big part of the community come in…

Late afternoon heading north: Watching the commute-ity that is a big part of the community…leave.

Another day in Paradise with the trade parade.

The point is that it takes more than luck to be here now. With more people than ever living full-time in the North Valley, it is a complex situation and addressing it will take community cooperation and vision. We can’t just replicate what’s been done in Aspen or Breck where there are literally thousands of workforce housing units but vanishing soul. We are fortunate that so many good people are working so hard to make opportunities available for those that want to live, work and most importantly, make a life here. Whetstone, Mineral Point, Homestead, the Village in Mt. CB all offer new chances for imagination. There will always be commuters travelling between both ends of the valley. The trade parade will never entirely go away. 

I’ll again advocate that all the workforce housing projects in the North Valley pipeline should not try to be all things to all people or be there to simply fill every vacant job the businesses say they need. Quality should trump quantity. Create comfortable homes over islands of workers that are simply numbers on a spreadsheet. 

The projects should be created with the goal to provide great neighborhoods for friends and community members at different stages of life from ski bum to growing family to wise elder. That reality might mean building fewer units with garages or storage areas but building a better quality of life for the residents. 

As much as I love this place, it would continue to be even better with a variety of people living here. Having workers be able to experience life in the North Valley benefits everyone and makes for a more soulful place. So, while we as a community now need to do specific projects for employees who can’t afford free market property prices, let’s focus on the things that will help make people want to live here, and not just work here. Let’s make these projects a place people will feel lucky to live in…so they can love the place they live.

—Mark Reaman

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