From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 7 - 10/12/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

We've Been There

by Jody & Kevin Roche

Twenty years ago we were drawn to Sublette County, but the banks wouldn't lend us any money and our one car barely made it to the local grocery store and back, let alone a daily 100 mile round trip commute. We wanted to settle in a small town and ended up in Jackson Hole where we could scrape out a living and still enjoy the surrounding area.

Back then, Jackson was still a small, close-knit community and "the Locals" were standoffish until you had survived at least one winter. The first winter was a little rough, not so much because of the weather, but because we were trying to become a part of an already tight community, where outsiders weren't welcome.

Eventually, we became accepted as part of the community. We could go into the Post Office or grocery store and know most of the people. The Community was honest, helpful, and stood wholeheartedly by a member of the community in their time of need. Everyone lived and worked in the Valley then. Commuters were almost non-existent. There were two definite off seasons when "the Tourists" finally vacated the Valley. There were community dances and celebrations, the weekly Hootenanny for local talents, the lighting of "the Square" at Christmas and the parade of lights down the snowy mountain. It was a slower paced, relaxed town. The hunting seasons were longer and the wildlife was bountiful, the fall colors glorious, and the blanketing of fresh clean snow heralded another season. Then the first buttercup peaked through a bare patch in the snow and welcomed the end of winter and the rebirth of Spring...Ahhh!

But, as Jackson grew, along came the inevitable change. More tourists, more transient workers, more rubber tomahawk stores, more restaurants, the "chain stores", higher prices, more traffic and more commuters. Along with the changes, came deterioration of service and schools, less affordable housing, a lack of community planning and the wealthy fleeing from the big cities, buying up the over-valued land, building trophy houses and raising our taxes. They were leaving the rat race, the crowds, the rush hours, the stress, and the bureaucracy. Except, they brought all their baggage along with them. Since they had now arrived in Jackson Hole, the doors should be closed to others and the "have nots" were pushed out. Teton County was in the hands of a few powerful greedy individuals.

The "Locals" are being forced out of the valley to find affordable housing in Teton Valley, Idaho, Lincoln County and even Sublette County. These are the bedroom communities of Jackson. I overheard a new resident of Jackson say, "all the workers should live over the hill, Jackson doesn't need affordable housing". This seems to be the current mentality of Jackson. Jackson has growing pains along with big open sores.

We've tried to leave Wyoming three times. We moved to Colorado for three months, we moved to Oregon twice. We even lived in Alpine for a year, but they view themselves as an extension of Jackson. There is no sense of community. Both Teton Valley, ID and Alpine are 20-45 minute commutes. We decided if we were going to commute for a while, we might as well live where we would be happy. We are outsiders again, living at the Rim, 47 miles from Jackson and 27 miles from Pinedale.

The reason I've spent so much time writing about Jackson is simple. Pinedale is similar to what Jackson was 20 years or so ago. The feeling I get when I drive into town is comfortable. Faler's is filled to the brim with a little bit of everything. Most of the other Mom and Pop shops fill the rest of my needs. Some things are a little more spendy, but it beats driving to Rock Springs, Salt Lake City or Idaho Falls. Pinedale is spread out and looks like a town you'd just drive through and not bother to stop. It isn't inviting to tourists. Yet, as I wander around town trying to find my way, most locals are helpful and enjoy chatting awhile. I've only met one negative person, so far. I see the effects of tourism here and there. It scares me a little because I've seen the negatives and greed tourism brings.

But, there is a positive side to tourism and change. Pinedale can subsist on its own without being just another bedroom community to Jackson. Sublette County can be a destination. It takes planning, planning and more planning. Everyone in the county has a voice. Each voice has an opinion. Each opinion needs to be heard by all. We can control how Pinedale and the rest of Sublette County grows. Get involved and let your voice be heard. Communication is the first step.

I know I'm only an "Outsider" and still learning about the issues involving Sublette County, but I intend to be a part of the community, to give what I can, and be involved. Pinedale and Sublette County as a whole need guidance and planning, don't let your community become like the spoiled child, Jackson.

Jody is a horse trainer and NARHA Certified riding instructor and owns and operates Windweaver Art and Designs, a hand-painted tile business. Her husband Kevin is a carpenter and commutes to Jackson 4 days a week and is a Certified John Lyons Trainer.

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The Sublette County Journal, PO Box 3010, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3713
Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul