Residents rate good, bad of valley life |

Residents rate good, bad of valley life

Melanie Wong

EAGLE COUNTY – Living in Eagle County is great, but it definitely comes at a cost, residents said.”It’s really expensive to live here, but I love it here. I like the outdoors, the mountains, the skiing. And it’s pretty laid back,” said Eagle-Vail resident Michael Swan.Those sentiments are what county officials want to gauge with a survey that aims to find out what residents think of the quality of life in Eagle County.The survey, which began in mid-July, consists of two parts. A public, two-week, online survey that ended July 30 asked residents what they liked best and least about the area and what improvements could be made for the future of the county. The survey got 180 responses.County Commissioner Sara Fisher said the online portion gave residents a chance to simply express their opinions. “You can tell it like you see it, and that’s exactly what we want to hear,” she said.The second part of the survey, which starts in early August, will be a telephone study of 400 randomly selected residents. Based on the results of the online survey, it will focus on specific quality-of-life issues and measure people’s satisfaction with county services.”The commissioners want to get residents’ opinions of what’s important to them so they’re sure that they’re responding to the wants of the people,” said Justin Finestone, the county’s communications director. “Open space, affordable housing and traffic are all things they are interested in working on.”Edwards resident Eric Goldman, 42, said he thinks the quality of living has decreased over the six years he has lived in the valley because of the rising cost of living.”You can’t get affordable services, and there’s a lack of affordable housing. From gas to groceries, everything is expensive,” he said.Goldman owns a dry-cleaning business in Avon and said that as a business owner, it is a challenge to pay his workers enough so they can afford to live in the area. He said he is skeptical of the county’s efforts to increase affordable housing. Local residents who really need the housing do not seem to get it, he said.However, he said there are characteristics of the area that make it worth staying. “You can’t beat the weather and the outdoor activities – just look where we live,” he said.Swan, 32, said he loves the outdoors aspect of living in the area, and for people who take advantage of that, they should have everything they need.But as someone who has started thinking about buying a home, he said he sees the downside to living in the area.”It’s hard to buy a house or get ahead. It’s realistic to be a homeowner if you’re working, but you’re not going to be able to pick what you get,” he said.For Village Market cook Laura Garduno, of Edwards, life in the valley is improving as there is more development. When she first came to Edwards 17 years ago, she had to drive into Minturn for shopping and work, she said.”Now you have a choice to buy what you want. There are more choices for work and more opportunities,” she said.As a single mother of a 7-year-old daughter, she said she also appreciates the security of the area. She doesn’t have to worry when she lets her daughter play in the neighborhood.However, she said she would like to see improvement of public schools and children’s programs. “I hear there are lots of drugs in the public high schools, and private schools are very expensive,” she said.County Commissioner Peter Runyon said hearing residents’ responses will give the county a baseline to measure improvement. The county had considered doing such a survey since the beginning of the year, he said.A series of studies done three years apart particularly concerned him, he said. The last part of the survey showed that people rated Eagle County’s quality of life as getting worse, while neighboring counties’ residents were rated as staying the same or improving.He said he attributes that partly to the fact that it has been hard for the county to keep up with a growth spurt the area went through in the 1990s. This survey will help the board improve what can be a difficult but important issue, he said.”Quality of life is by definition a subjective issue but one that we’re all concerned about,” he said.

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