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A community of newcomers

Don Rogers

There’s little chest-beating about length of years lived in these places – don’t need to when you already know. Newcomers, a rarity who forever will be such, are politely left out of the inner circles of the establishment and especially behind the establishment. These aren’t so much snubs as the good folks tend not to quite know what to do with these strangers who occasionally have moved into their midst, some of them decades ago.

The more curious citizens will always embrace the newcomers, at least socially, but the questers in these communities tend to be the ones who leave to explore that greater world, sometimes landing in places like the Vail Valley.

Itinerant journalists, like ballplayers in the bush leagues, inevitably will make stops in these little towns along their journey to the big time. Often they’ll settle along the way, or in my case, reach that metro grail and realize it’s not really what we thought we were seeking.

The upshot is I’m a professional newcomer, a tourist, really, in a slow motion tour of my country that seems to have stopped here, the best of all possible places.

The overt pride people here take of their years in the valley is interesting. You see it when citizens address public bodies, in letters to the editor and in Tipslines that start with that “I’ve lived here XX years and never …” Polite conversation often includes a reference establishing depth of localhood.

Rival editors at the Trail make sure to include “over 10 years” and “lifelong” residency in the taglines following their columns each week. My favorite cranky commissioner played the “you newcomers” card in a rebuttal column last week to something critical I’d written about his behavior of late.

That’s fine. Clearly we believe we have some extra cred with the community at large by declaring our pride in having existed in this place for long periods of time. Congratulations on having managed to keep breathing all this time.

Maybe we’re encouraged in this need to make sure everyone knows we’re “longtime” locals by all those chairlift conversations with vacationers and day skiers from the Front Range. It never fails to impress when they ask where we are from, and we laconically as possible reply that we happen to live here. Wow!

The irony is that tenure of residency only matters in public decisions in communities where the good folk don’t talk about it.

In a debate about issues here, few people are much impressed with the quality of an argument based on how long you have taken up space in one place. What’s your idea? That’s what matters.

We can look right to the census figures to deduce why. The population of the 10th-fastest growing county in the United States has more than doubled over the past decade, and has tripled since the 1980s.

Furthermore, the population here churns pretty quickly. Many people come, stay a year or two or three, and move along. Our children are not locks to stay in town once grown, either.

This is a community dominated by newcomers, if you get right down to it. The status accorded to long residency doesn’t go much farther than envy at having found or been born into paradise before the rest of us could discover this great place.

Perhaps aggravating all this is the nature of the newcomers, who by and large are the questers who grew up and had the guts to leave their hometowns. Their “brain drain” is Colorado and Eagle County’s gain, at least in bodies starting their own counts of years in the valley.

Population growth carries its share of challenges, to be sure, though the issues in those shrinking towns I passed through were a lot tougher. The infusion enriches our communities in many ways, not the least of which in fresh ideas and judgment based on the quality of thought rather than the mere quantity of time someone has passed in one place.

Managing Editor Don Rogers can be contacted at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.com


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