Survey: Eagle Countians are happy to be here
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY ” Vail resident Jeremiah Ogden, 28, said he thinks life is pretty good in the valley.
People are laid-back, and there are plenty of places to go four-wheeling and hiking in the summer, he said.
The downside of our resort community is that everything from rent to gas is more expensive, he said.
“It’s very hard to get by. I work two jobs and I probably still wouldn’t make it if I didn’t have family here who helped me,” said Ogden, who works at Mi Zuppa and the Avon Pet Center. “If you’ve got a billion dollars, it’s the greatest place on earth.”
Many residents agree with Ogden, who has lived in the valley for 12 years. A recent survey shows that 81 percent of residents think quality of life in Eagle County is good or excellent, and 80 percent of residents are concerned about the high cost of living.
The Quality of Life Survey polled 400 Eagle County residents on what they thought was good and bad about living in the county, how they felt the county government was going and whether or not they were optimistic about the area’s future.
Overall, most residents polled think the quality of life in Eagle County is “excellent” or “very good,” and only 3 percent rate their quality of life as “poor.”
Residents said they enjoyed living here because of the natural beauty, outdoor recreation, small-town feel and sense of community.
“I wanted to live in a beautiful mountain community, small town setting, where I felt I could make a difference. I love the fact that deer stroll through my front yard and that I can call my neighbors by name,” one respondent said.
However, the survey showed that older residents tended to be happier here, said Brian Sanderoff of Research and Polling, Inc., the company that conducted the survey.
“Only 27 percent of young adults rated quality of life as excellent. People who were older, homeowners and made higher incomes were more likely to say it was excellent,” he said.
That is probably because the younger population are the ones dealing with high costs of living and trying to find affordable rent, he said.
Eagle resident Bill Carey, 48, said that while the area has its problems, he enjoys living here.
“The quality of life here is still very good. There are tremendous amounts of outdoor recreation. I hike, hunt and fish,” said Carey, who has lived in the county for 25 years.
Edwards resident Rick Mueller, who has lived in the valley almost 30 years, said that growth in the county has overall made quality of life better.
“Before, if you wanted to get your car fixed or get anything, you had to go to Denver. The services have definitely improved the way of life,” said Mueller, who is a developer.
But growth has its good and bad effects, Mueller said.
Many people have moved into the valley, bringing more crowded hiking trails, traffic and housing problems, he said.
The survey showed residents felt that the top problems threatening quality of life had to do with the area’s growth and the cost of living.
Many residents said they wanted to see limited growth, less traffic, more affordable housing, and a lower cost of living, Sanderoff said.
Rapid growth in the area has been good for Carey’s trucking company. But the price of that growth is more expensive homes, and increasing numbers of “big-box stores” like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, he said.
Carey also thinks illegal immigrants in the county take jobs and contribute to lower wages. Illegal immigration made the list of top concerns for the county, according to the survey.
While overall residents seemed to agree on what’s right and what’s wrong with Eagle County life, the older and younger residents were split on the direction the county is headed, Sanderoff said.
Young adults were overall more optimistic about the future, believing that their quality of life had gotten better over the last few years and believing that it would continue to get better in the next few years, Sanderoff said.
“The people who have been living here longer were more likely to say quality of life had gotten worse and were more pessimistic about the future,” he said.
Reasons for those answers again seemed to stem from worries about rapid growth. Those older residents also were more likely to want to see less or no growth in the future, he said.
Ogden, for example, thinks the future is bright for Eagle County, despite the fact that growth has made the place nearly unaffordable for him.
Growth is good as long as we take care of the nature that makes Eagle County attractive, he said.
“Growth is necessary and inevitable. I don’t mind it at all. I just try to make the best of it,” he said.
But Mueller said that the expenses and housing problems of the county could keep things from improving.
“I see the quality of life going down in the next few years if we don’t get this affordable housing figured out. It seems people can’t get by here anymore,” he said.
However, the survey also showed people wanted the county government to play an active role in controlling growth and managing other problems. Residents wanted to see open space, limited building, affordable housing, and addressing the needs of working families at the top of county priorities.
“People aren’t saying, ‘Stop growth.’ They’re saying to plan for it. Come up with affordable housing and control traffic. It’s all related,” Sanderoff said.
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or email@example.com.