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Envision Chaffee County

Envision project gains ground as dozens attend meetings

 

A Salida resident for just one week, Ben Syzek found himself at an Envision Chaffee County meeting Friday morning with more than 50 others, planning for his future.

 

“How do I move to Salida and find a job and a place to live?” he said he asked himself before deciding to attend the four-hour facilitated work session at the Buena Vista Community Center.

 

“I look at other Colorado towns like Boulder and the ski towns and nobody has really figured out a model that works,” he said. “Instead of just complaining, I’m here to do something about it.”

 

A tech industry professional from Colorado Springs, Syzek, 33, knows the economy here is focused on tourism and, to a lesser extent, agriculture. But the ranching community and rural character could change as the community evolves with growth in population and tourism.

 

“I’m interested to see how growth could be done correctly,” he said.

 

That’s the focus of newly elected Salida Town Council Member Dan Shore, a seven-year resident who said he is especially excited about the visioning part of the Envision Chaffee County initiative.

 

The project was started by a group of concerned citizens who want to plan for the county’s future as it grows a projected 31% by 2030 and 52% by 2050.

 

“Given what the State Demographer says about population growth, we need forward-looking leadership so we are not caught by surprise,” Shore said.

 

Through meetings like Friday’s work session and a community survey taken by more than 1,200 residents, Envision Chaffee County is developing a shared community vision for the future.

 

It so far has identified four values the community deems important: Its natural beauty, supported by healthy public lands and the Arkansas River with associated outdoor experiences; its sense of community and small-town feel, characterized by friendly, welcoming locals and a slower-paced lifestyle; rural landscapes and open spaces delivered through working agricultural lands; and economic accessibility, where the cost of living is not prohibitive and people who work here can choose to live here.

 

“These issues around affordability, small-town feel and open space are all interconnected,” Shore said. “It’s about quality of life and if we aren’t thoughtful about planning, this won’t be as special a place to live.”

 

Friday’s work session was complimented by a condensed session in Poncha Springs on Tuesday night. A total of 63 people participated in the two events. More than 100 have signed up to participate, and 550 residents have asked to be kept informed on the progress.

 

The project will evolve early next year, when working groups will tackle specific issues and create an action plan to help maintain the county’s best assets and create the future the community said it wants.

 

Supported by a LOR Foundation grant, the project was convened in September by the Chaffee County Commissioners. It will conclude with an implementation plan in a report to the community in May.

 

The next work session takes place Jan. 12. Everyone is encourage to get involved. To do so, send a message to envision@centralcoloradoconservancy.org.

 

For more information, visit envisionchaffeecounty.org or find the project page on Facebook.

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