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Three decades into the future

Kim Marquis

KEYSTONE – Taking a winding, wet mountain pass to work will become a daily routine for more High Country residents if population and job growth projections pan out in Colorado.The number of people commuting to Summit County, for example, will double by 2030, which means twice the amount of traffic on the roads from Leadville, Fairplay and Kremmling.The population influx throughout the Colorado resort region will be driven not by tourism but by the pure nature of the area, said speakers at a conference Tuesday in Keystone titled, “Visions, Vistas and Viewpoints: Imagining Our Mountain Communities in 2030.” More than 100 people from around the region attended the event sponsored by the Silverthorne-based Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, which represents local governments working on regional issues in Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield and Grand counties.The second-home market and amenity-seeking retirees will drive up population. The “amenity seekers” will come here for a variety of reasons, with skiing being just one on a long list of attractions.In 30 separate surveys that included about 10,000 people, the council of governments found people wanted to maintain the area’s values – such as small-town atmosphere, a sense of community, scenery and recreation – despite projected growth trends. “Good people like nice places,” said Stephan Weiler, assistant vice president and economist with the Center for the Study of Rural America who spoke Tuesday. Managing the growthThe continuing growth is not inevitable, said Mick Ireland, a Pitkin County commissioner and speaker at Tuesday’s event, adding that eight-lane highways and 30,000 people commuting does not have to be in the future if local entities take control.”You’ll either exhaust your capacity to handle it or – and I think this one will come first – you will exhaust your willingness to put up with it,” he said.Terry Minger, president and chief executive of the Center for Resource Management, said that while economic successes have been phenomenal since skiing and tourism took over as the drivers, leaders have and still do suffer from “failure of nerve,” tending to maintain the status quo.Minger formerly served as chief executive at Whistler-Blackcomb Resort in British Columbia and was town manager in Vail for a decade starting in the late 1970s.”Mountains everywhere are under assault,” Minger said, “because there are so many more of us, more people, more cars, more development and so much more stuff … we all want more in our lives and this is where we want to be.” Population projections is one thing, but the political will to do something about it is another, he added. “Boy, we’re really expanding the pie,” he said. “Well, how big will it be? Will we expand it forever?”Housing crunch pinches familiesIreland noted that during the first few years of this decade, the 45-60 age group grew in the region while the 25-40 age group declined. The cost of living caused young families to move away to find cheaper homes. That exodus leads to communities without children, he said.”Now people are moving out of here saying, ‘I can’t make it here with a kid’,” Ireland said.Jim Westkott of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs said families also support the service industries – police, retail, health care and schools – needed for increased populations.”They are the ones who take care of the environment, community and standards of living,” Westkott said. “There is a market to grow to buildout, but what will it look like? Will it accommodate the stewards that are going to make it look good?”Vail, Colorado


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