Building community character
Vail, Colorado CO
Community ” we know it when we see it.
It’s more than manicured parks and new pedestrian walkways, which makes community all the more difficult to define, much less build.
Eagle and Gypsum had the distinction for years of being two of the county’s most authentic communities. They were small, close-knit and were called home by hundreds of residents who had lived there for years.
Gypsum and Eagle have more than doubled in the past 10 years, though. About half of the residents living in these towns today are newcomers.
Our downvalley towns have been blessed (or cursed) with an onslaught of upvalley transplants attracted to the affordable housing and promise of “real” community both towns offer.
But that growth threatens to ruin what makes Eagle and Gypsum special in the first place; both towns will have to resist being bedroom communities, considering so many of their new residents still commute upvalley for work.
There’s plenty of cause for hope, though.
Eagle seems committed to keeping its downtown ” the real one ” alive. The historic, but relatively tiny Broadway has lately been lined with cars most Friday nights of late.
Downtown businesses in Eagle have had rather precarious futures, so its encouraging to see restaurants, boutiques and coffeehouses stick around and new shops open up.
Gypsum, for all its new businesses, including Costco, lacks a traditional downtown. In its absence, the new Gypsum Recreation Center has turned into the community gathering place. Recreation officials sold more than 1,600 memberships within a month of opening.
Neither Gypsum nor Eagle have solved the big question of how to deal with their town’s growing needs for more money and more amentities.
Even if Broadway Street reaches its full potential, it’s too small to fund all the things a bigger Eagle will require.
Big-box development on a large parcel east of town seems to answer the town’s economic question, but possibly at the expense of Eagle’s precious downtown.
Gypsum has been more open to the big-box development, but residents are right to worry that the convenience and affordability of national retailers will suck away any chance that a locally-owned downvalley business can survive.
Town leaders for Eagle and Gypsum must balance both of those needs ” the need to nurture their towns’ souls and the need to keep their respective communities financially solvent.
Town leaders can only do so much to protect their towns. The citizens, in the end, are responsible for keeping their communities thriving by eating in local restaurants, shopping in local shops and using local amenities.