As I had mentioned at City Council in February after returning from a week in Sedona, Ariz., a town doesn’t die all at once. It dies incrementally when property values for both residential and commercial reach unsustainable levels. It dies when workers, both trained and untrained, can no longer make it financially and leave town. It dies when new solutions to old and current problems are given short shrift. It dies when creativity is stifled by archaic rules and regulations—or just obstructionist tactics by reactionary forces. But most of all it dies when enough of the good citizens of the town stop caring about the less fortunate, being preoccupied with their own existences. Community-minded thinking is never a given.
In February, I brought up several shortcomings in Sedona that indicated the power of certain “groups” to stifle forward progress. The fact that it has already made Sedona an unfavorable location for vacationing, residing or second-home ownership is of no concern to them. Examples:
1) A bridge washout years ago cut the highway across the main river in town going southeast to northwest; it was never restored because “some of the locals who lived near the old bridge did not want traffic navigating their neighborhood.” This results in an extra 5-mile detour to go from one end of the town to the other.
2) Public bus service was eliminated during the economic downturn for financial reasons. Eight years later, it has not been brought back. Traffic and parking range from difficult in slack periods to horrendous during busy times.
3) Hiking trails have severely limited access because of major parking issues. The local homeowners have signs posted everywhere near trailheads: “No parking”!
4) A town of 10,000 with a drawing area of another 12,000 (Phoenix is 120 miles away) has one theater near the high school far over on the west side of Sedona and a small theater that seats 100 closer to the center. That’s it. Compare that with our own Community School Theater, the Argyros Performing Arts Center, the Community Library lecture hall, Company of Fools with its Liberty Theatre, the Community Campus theater and The Spot theater. I myself have done outdoor theater at the Botanical Garden and Trail Creek. Then there are the Pavilion and River Run areas as venues for outdoor concerts. Thankfully, Wood River Valley arts and culture are alive and well for now due to the fervent efforts of cultural activists.
Planning for the future of Ketchum has been on the back burner for decades. We have the opportunity and need to plan for the Ketchum of years from now. Or we can be the Sedona of Idaho.
Gary Hoffman is a resident of Ketchum.