Letter: In response to ’Striking the balance’ article
Destination management is a community project that is trying to counteract the effects of destination marketing. It is ironic that Steamboat Springs City Council is discussing funding both destination management and destination marketing with the reallocation of the 2A funds.
I live in a neighborhood that includes Buffalo Pass. Buffalo Pass is a prime example of the need for destination management. The demand by residents and visitors for the use of its natural resources for biking, camping, hiking, hunting, backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, hybrid-skiing, Powdercats, etc., overruns the supply of infrastructure and natural resources. This is not the only location in Routt County with similar issues at present: Columbine, Seedhouse, Mad Creek, Spring Creek and Sarvis Creek.
The overcrowding affects the quality of life of residents and the visitor experience. When community members started discussing this issue, it was called demand management. When partners came to the table, Kara Stoller of the Chamber correctly recommended it be called destination management. However, something was lost — the connection between supply and demand.
The objective of destination management has quality of life at its core. Destination marketing has a goal of driving continued or, in most cases, increased demand. The city and Routt County should be looking at funding quality of life projects instead of destination marketing.
These would be community infrastructure projects that may differ from what we typically think of when using the word “infrastructure”: open spaces for recreation and wildlife; strategic improvement of trailheads, including reconsidering how people access them; new trails to enjoy the western environment; enhancement or as necessary restrictions to preserve wild places; and technology to inform residents and visitors alike of overcrowding at favorite destinations to keep people from traveling to these special places if they are already overwhelmed. The old funding paradigm needs to be changed.
To take it a step further, the community may want to start thinking in terms of a new paradigm — moving toward an amenity economy versus the historic tourism economy. The amenities of this new paradigm should be oriented toward the quality of life and the needs of current and future residents. These needs include the “infrastructure” mentioned above and others, such as water quantity and quality, affordable housing, health care and the availability of child care.
In the new paradigm, the community is able to raise and maintain its quality of life for residents. Visitors will come because of the social and physical amenities throughout the Yampa Valley. Our communities will be the best among Colorado mountain communities. Our economy will thrive.
Former Routt County commissioner
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