From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 9 - 10/26/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Scenery is Not a Future

At last week's County Planning & Zoning Meeting, P&Z Board member John Dahlke and Sublette County's most committed environmentalist, Linda Baker, spoke in opposition to Eric Fairbanks' proposed industrial site development south of Boulder on Highway 191. Both Mr. Dahlke and Ms. Baker raised several different points against Mr. Fairbanks' proposal, but their most potent argument was that the industrial site would eventually be abandoned, and all that would remain would be a few empty buildings, rusting leftover machinery, and landscaping overtaken by weeds.

Ms. Baker cautioned against the lure of the current "boom" in Sublette's oilfields, reminding us that on the other side of every boom is the "bust."

Mr. Dahlke said that if Mr. Fairbanks' development went through, it would eventually become Sublette County's "Jeffrey City" and serve as an ugly signpost for Pinedale for all the tourists heading up from the south.

He urged his fellow commissioners to remember the "history of Wyoming's extractive industries," and concluded that Sublette County's wildlife and scenery will be here long after the natural gas is gone.

I admire and respect both Mr. Dahlke and Ms. Baker and I want their voices at the table. Certainly this concern about the eventual future of Mr. Fairbanks' industrial site is a valid one, and it could become the abandoned eyesore Mr. Dahlke fears. However, there was something in his comments that didn't sit quite right with me and it took me a while to figure out what that was.

Simply put, scenery is not a future. At least it's not one that I want to see for our community.

First, an economy based on scenery boils down to tourism and real estate development. In other words, low wages and high housing costs. These don't make for a family-friendly place to live.

Second, an economy based on scenery leads to a community lacking character and soul. It's a community that's always for sale.

Where Mr. Dahlke looks at Jeffrey City and sees a mistake, and where Ms. Baker looks at the abandoned buildings south of Big Piney and sees failure, I see something different. I see a story of people who took a risk and tried to build something that didn't work out. I see entrepreneurial spirit, and authentic effort. I don't see anything to be ashamed of.

In the end, I support Mr. Fairbanks' proposal and wish him the best of luck. And I don't mind if the tourists driving up from I-80 see his industrial site and cringe a little bit. They'll get over it, and hopefully it will make them realize that there's more to Sublette County and Pinedale than scenery.

Finally, the continued increase in housing prices in Pinedale and the north end of the County does not bode well for Pinedale's future. I'm telling you, real estate inflation and high housing costs will change our community for the worse. I wish I had a solution to offer.

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Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul