Romer: Nostalgia for a time that never was
“I want things to go back to the way they were (fill in the blank) years ago. Things in Eagle County were better then.”
I hear this increasingly often, and it makes me think that folks have self-selected into viewing our local world from the viewpoint of nostalgia for a time that never was.
Let me explain.
Most folks agree that Eagle County is a special place to live, with high-quality services and recreational opportunities galore. Yet they pine for days before — usually aligned with when they moved here — when life was “simpler.”
This manifests in different ways in my conversations. Some folks want less crowded trails, others less construction on Highway 6. Some complain about I-70, others about airport noise. There are people who hate special events and want our towns to be quiet enclaves filled with retirees; others who hate roundabouts.
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These folks (admittedly, a small minority of usual suspects) tend to enjoy complaining about the progress we have made in Eagle County and the Eagle River Valley over the past years without taking the time to recognize the progress and achievements our community has made in the same timeframe. They conveniently fail to remember that life has always been hard in our rural resort communities.
It is human nature to look back fondly on the time we moved to Eagle County and assume that everything should stay the same as it was then — after all, it attracted us and was good enough at that point. Humans don’t always appreciate change.
People who have “nostalgia for a time that never was” are not usually opposed to progress. They are simply living in a self-selected fantasy world because they don’t take the time to remember that life was hard (fill in the blanks) years ago, too. Change is hard, and they don’t remember the hard things from the past.
We have made tremendous strides over the years that are mostly positive. Our community — despite very real challenges with workforce housing, high cost of living, and behavioral health — has never been better than we are today.
There was a time when our trails were less crowded, but today we have the Vail Valley Trails Alliance, who work hard to maintain our trails and ensure stewardship of our trails for all users. There was a time when we didn’t need roundabouts in Eagle, Edwards or Avon. Yet today we have live/work options at Riverwalk and vibrant communities with recreational facilities throughout the valley. We did not always have health care facilities such as the Shaw Cancer Center or world-class orthopedics.
Those who might not like the airport or special events still benefit from the positive economic impact they bring to Eagle County. These same folks are just as likely to attend a concert at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater as they might be to complain about parking at the farmers markets.
Was life simpler 20, 30 or 40 years ago? Maybe. I am very open to that possibility and think in many ways it is probably true. But it is important to look at the flip side of the equation as well and ask if our community is better today with the resources that exist due to growth — including our nonprofits, special events, medical and cultural facilities, ski area improvements and enhancements, and so much more.
Next time someone grouches about how life here was so much better at some point in the past, do your part and remind them they are likely suffering from nostalgia for a time that never was.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.