South Routt looking toward future

Residents urged to think about their economic outlook at potluck

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— The South Routt County community is being invited to a Tuesday night potluck dinner that is intended to shape a vision for the area's economic future.

An assessment team from Governor Bill Owens' office visited South Routt a year ago and helped to guide a survey intended to find out how residents see the community, which includes the incorporated towns of Oak Creek and Yampa, as well as unincorporated Phippsburg and Toponas and rural neighborhoods.

The survey measured community perceptions in a half-dozen areas. The assessment team left with the impression that South Routt residents don't have a shared view of what the area's economic future holds.

"What we heard from the state assessment team is that they didn't hear an overall comprehensive vision of what we want," County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. "Trying to determine what our economic future is, is important. I think the challenge is, 'what can we do as a community to broaden our economic base?'"

Ken De Paul, president of the South Routt Economic Development Council, said 1,000 copies of a survey were sent out last year and slightly more than 200 responses came back, representing a 20 percent sample.

Now, the plan is to bring the community together to focus its attention on a short list of high-priority goals.

The survey was meant to find out how residents feel about recreational opportunities, the breadth of the economic base, the availability of housing opportunities, the importance of maintaining the agricultural character of the southern part of the county and whether there are ample educational opportunities.

By an overwhelming margin, the respondents agree that South Routt needs to strengthen its own economic base. Respondents voted 171 to 19 on that subject. The majority thought the best ways to achieve that goal include small businesses (160) and agriculture (142). Railroads, tourism and mining were well down the list. Home-based businesses received 112 favorable responses.

De Paul and Stahoviak agreed the survey seemed to indicate South Routt residents would like to see small businesses employing 10 to 20 people attracted to the area.

"We've seen a revival in restaurants," De Paul said. "Businesses like a specialty woodworking shop -- those are the kinds of niches we're looking for."

Stahoviak recalled the Wave Sport kayak manufacturing facility, formerly in Oak Creek, as the kind of business that can be good for South Routt. The small plant left town several years ago after it was purchased out of state.

Perceptions of the educational system likely will be a topic of discussion at Tuesday's potluck. It represents the only area of the survey in which a majority of residents thought South Routt did not need more opportunity.

Of the respondents, 90 answered "no," signifying they don't think South Routt needs more educational opportunities. Seventy-nine answered "yes," it does. Among several levels of educational opportunity, vocational education was ranked highest, and the library/museum came next. The K-12 school system ranked fifth out of eight choices.

In contrast, 124 respondents indicated "yes," they would like to see more recreational opportunities (63 answered "no").

Bicycling, camping, hiking and fishing all received more than 80 votes.

Asked if they thought there was a need to increase housing opportunities in South Routt, 134 people said "yes" and 55 said "no."

Single-family housing in traditional neighborhoods topped the list (149). Affordable subsidized housing was a distant second at 87. Various forms of multifamily housing received only modest support, and mobile-home parks only garnered 23 favorable responses.

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