Steamboat Springs Dear Rob,
I enjoy your columns. I applaud you for your willingness to weigh in on community issues rather than focusing on ones far beyond the borders of the Yampa Valley. You have touched a few "hot buttons" with comments about Triple Crown.
I am very familiar with local and regional economic data. The Steamboat Springs economy is in pretty good shape. For that matter, the entire Yampa Valley is healthy. We are in a good position to weather some approaching economic storm clouds much better than many small communities. We have a lot to be thankful for.
Way too often our economy is described as a three-legged stool (agriculture, mining and tourism). It's a great visual picture, but our economy is much more diverse. The only business activities that we do not do a lot of anymore are fur trapping and gold mining. Just about everything else we have done economically we still continue to do; we just keep adding more business activities.
During the past 10 to 12 years, an economic segment best described as an "amenity or lifestyle economy" began to emerge locally. It does not fit neatly into any one industry sector. What we do know is that it is composed of active early retirees, part-time residents and location-neutral businesses. This group often derives its income from sources that extend well beyond the boundaries of this valley. This economic diversity is invaluable. Many local residents benefit from the jobs and economic opportunity this diversity brings.
Individuals associated with this "lifestyle" economy, as well as many of us that live here, are attracted and stay because of the amenities that are uniquely available. These are the amenities of a beautiful place, a cornucopia of recreational and cultural opportunities, a safe community, one that values families, etc.
These also are the community assets that attract visitors. Yea! We need these visitors because we live in the house that tourism built. The built recreational and cultural infrastructure and the level of public and business services we enjoy cost a whole lot more than we could afford on our own. As residents, we have been willing to share with our visitors those tangible and intangible community amenities we value that make Steamboat a great place to live, work and play.
The "hot buttons" you have touched on in your columns highlight the issues when one industry sector, "tourism," and specifically a sub-set identified as Triple Crown, begins to rub against another sector, "lifestyle." The temptation is to look at this as an either/or - and not both - proposition. These economic sectors can happily co-exist. We can, however, only co-exist happily if we set boundaries.
Use of the Emerald Park fields may be just one of those boundaries. Promises were made to the folks living in the Pamela Lane neighborhood regarding the use of those fields. Is it in writing? No, it is not. Thankfully, we still live in a community where a person's word is their bond.
The characteristic of honesty is a community quality that does not need to be sacrificed in this situation in the name of business. By being true to our collective community word, we help protect and foster one of our most valuable economic assets - our sense of community as evident by the respect we have for one another. The cost of a broken promise likely will far outweigh the economic benefit that may result. Is it worth it? What do you think?
Scott L. Ford