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Remain Vigilant to Retain Quality of Place
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Sun Valley-area residents are encouraged to figure out how to save what’s important to the local quality of life and place before it’s too late.
   
Friday, November 11, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Be careful, as everything you treasure about living in Sun Valley could be gone right before your eyes.

That’s the warning from Jaap Vos, professor at the University of Idaho Department of Natural Resources.

Vos told those attending Wednesday’s 2022 Economic Summit organized by Sun Valley Economic Development that quality of place can change in the blink of an eye if residents don’t consider what’s important to protect.

One need look no further than Boise to see how that happens, he added.

To define quality of place, Vos told of a summer workshop he conducted with University of Idaho students at the Taylor Wilderness Research Station Ranch in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

The beautiful setting boasted a high quality of place. He was among a small group of similar people with similar goals who were mutually dependent on each other. Their basic needs were met but not taken for granted, they had a strong sense of community, and there was no outside interference since the students had no cell phone use or internet.

“The students even read the material I assigned them!” he said.

Vos said he found a similar situation on a larger scale when he moved to Boise from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 2012.

In Boise he found a community of people who had lived in the area for many years and had even reinvented themselves to stay. They were willing to accept lower salaries than they might have gotten elsewhere as a trade off for the beautiful setting in which they found themselves and Idaho’s other amenities.

They were friendly, they knew each other and they supported one another.

Traffic was minimal and relaxed. And it took awhile to uncover all that Idaho had to offer, including the directions to secret hiking and fishing spots.

“It quickly became home and that had to do with what the place was,” Vos told a small crowd in Sun Valley Resort’s Limelight Room.

That began to change in 2018 when redevelopment took off. “Idaho has been discovered,” he said.

Before, Boise had to beg to get Whole Foods. Now national companies are clamoring to establish their footprints in the area. That’s not necessarily bad, Vos said. It just means you have to deal with different players, such as National Builders building subdivisions in Boise.

“Boise is now considered a place to make money, and that has consequences that are poorly understood,” he said.

Those consequences include increased home prices, pressure on wages and a labor market that’s pickier. Longtime local coffee shops like Moxie Java now have competition from national brands like Starbucks.

“Boise used to be unique. Now there’s a homogenization of the experience. It looks like everywhere else,” Vos said, adding that people are more likely to choose national brands over local Mom and Pop shops because they choose what they’re familiar with.

Boise no longer feels the same, said Vos.

“My cul-de-sac is in the perfect location, but it doesn’t feel the same. It’s difficult to get on the road at 8 a.m. there’s so much traffic on Warm Springs. I’ve had road rage, which I thought I left behind in Florida. The foothills are still beautiful, the Greenbelt is wonderful, but I don’t know people at the local bar, anymore. My home no longer feels like my forever home, and I could foresee moving in the near future.”

Vos said others have shared the same kind of concerns. The checker at WinCo who used to greet all her customers as friends no longer knows many of those who come through the checkout line. Even worse, her shoppers are clueless about how things are done at the store.

My job is no fun anymore, she told Vos.

“Boise is losing its uniqueness—it’s becoming just another place. And it happened really quickly beginning in 2018. So, it’s important to think about these things now,” Vos said.

Vos said that population change is the trigger for other changes, including quality of place. Idaho is the second fastest growing state in the country, although its actual growth peaked in 2017 and the state has been growing at a slower rate since.

Between 2010 and 2020 Idaho gained 271,449 new residents. During the same period 295,333 Idahoans left so that means a half million people actually moved into the state. Currently an average of 180 people move to Idaho each day while 137 move out of Idaho each day.

“We’re no longer isolated, in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “We’re in the middle of the action.”

Vos concluded his presentation by telling those in the room to refrain from trying to be like somebody else.

"The more different you are, the more likely it is that you will be successful."

DID YOU KNOW?

Blaine County was the only county in Idaho that saw a positive population impact presumably because of the COVID pandemic.

 

 

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