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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Ensuring access to outdoor recreation and activities.

That’s the No. 1 thing both full-time and seasonal residents say is vital to maintaining a good quality of life in Sun Valley, according to a Sun Valley Resident Survey commissioned by Visit Sun Valley.

Close behind is maintaining small-town sense of community, according to the survey polled by the Boulder-based RRC Associates.

Other considerations include quality recreation facilities and programs, local events and festivals, a vibrant/high energy community and arts/culture/entertainment—all of which ranked high among 18 factors that were probed.

“Culture matters,” said one respondent. “Preserve the relaxed small-town vibe. Differentiate Sun Valley from the other mountain towns and resorts.”

The survey, which is scheduled to be completed in mid-June, has polled 1,433 fulltime and seasonal residents. The locals comprised about 76 percent of respondents and the seasonal respondents ,24 percent. The full-timers had lived here an average of 19.8 years; the seasonal residents, 16.9 years.

Thirty-six percent of the fulltime residents were from Ketchum and 29 percent from Hailey; 44 percent of the seasonal residents were from Sun Valley and 38 percent, from Ketchum.

 Both groups reported they are extremely proud of the Wood River Valley as a place to live and of the unique setting in which the Wood River Valley lies, RRC’s Dave Belin told those attending a community meeting organized Tuesday morning by Visit Sun Valley at The Community Library.

“My pride comes from Ketchum and the valley being a small-town community with basically no chain stores and the fact we can see the unobstructed mountain/hill views so close. And how PEACEFUL it is,” said one respondent.

“It is small-town living at its finest with some of the coolest local amenities I’ve ever experienced,” said another. “Rotarun is simply incredible and invaluable for family fun and recreation. The rodeo grounds, ice rink and outdoor park rink in Ketchum are wonderful for the families, as well as for ice skating and pick-up hockey games. The continued trail building and new bike park/pump track in Hailey are so much fun. And the BCRD pool in Hailey is heavenly during the summer. I am honored and grateful for the decision makers who are putting an emphasis on wholesome recreation developments around the valley.”

Fifty-seven percent of seasonal residents said they were highly likely to recommend Sun Valley as a place to live on a scale of 1 to 10, while 39 percent of the fulltime residents agreed. And more than two-thirds of both say they welcome houseguests at least a few times every year.

But they have significant concerns about changes in the valley and the impact of more people on the environment. About 33 percent of respondents said the quality of life is improving or staying the same; 37 percent said quality of life is declining.

 

The vast majority of the latter are residents who have lived in the area for more than 20 years and who are dependent on the local economy. They identify crowding, trail usage and access as challenges.

Local residents also stress the need for good health care, economic and educational opportunities educational opportunities and diversity. Housing availability and home prices rate a particularly large challenge, they said.

Seasonal residents stressed the need for continued safety and security, restaurant variety, quality and frequency of events, family-friendly opportunities, a focus on things that speak to the history of the area, low tax rates and availability of flights at the airport.

Respondents said the biggest challenges affecting them personally and professionally include service industry staffing, lack of housing inventory, home prices, inflation, crowding and trail usage and access.

Asked what the top three challenges needing attention are, 81 percent said water scarcity; 56 percent, obtainable housing, and 53 percent overcrowding and overtourism.

Maintaining a smalltown/sense of community was most identified as the topic that should receive greater attention as local agencies and decision makers look to the future, along with access to outdoor activities and experiences.

“Good clean fun and healthy environment,” said one respondent. “The perfect balance between small town and big city vibe. Treat activities, recreation and culture, all while continuing to enhance a small local feel.”

“Despite the negative changes, I still think there is nothing as special as the Wood River Valley,” said another. “I am grateful everyday to live in this community. Outdoor recreation out your backyard and truly a feeling of a small town with some cultural opportunities, such as the symphony.”

Belen noted that Sun Valley has not been besieged by the kind of crowding at trailheads and other places like so many other mountain resorts, such as Breckinridge, Aspen and Steamboat Springs, have experienced. Colorado is experiencing “Insane” population growth, he added.

Scott Fortner executive director of Visit Sun Valley noted that a significant number of visitors come to Sun Valley at the invitation of friends and family. The onus is on those locals and second homeowners to educate them about where to go and how to behave, he said.

Visit Sun Valley hopes to use data from the survey to help the organization strike a balance between the needs and expectations of residents to preserve a desirable quality of life.

WANT TO GIVE YOUR TWO CENTS WORTH?

Those who haven’t taken the survey can do so at https://vsvresidentsurvey.com/open

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