The Inertia

The Next Frontier for the Rockies: Walkability

Photo: amachado


The Inertia

I grew up in the Rockies. I didn’t go to school there or even really “live” there, but I grew up there. The Rockies — specifically surrounding the stretch of I-70 running between Frisco-Breckenridge and Vail or Minturn a little further up the road, where I spent winters and summers as well as Presidents’ Day weekends and spring breaks — was where I felt most comfortable, despite my family home having a 66207 postal code just outside of Kansas City, nearly 700 miles away.

There was this visceral connection I shared with this magnificent physical expanse, at once both ethereal and rugged or raw. Waking up in the morning was easier, and thin air breathed right.

And it seems that I’m not the only one with such an affinity to the Rockies. In fact, over the course of the past decade, the Rocky Mountain West became one of the nation’s fastest growing regions. But with growth comes responsibility. Despite an expected decline in said growth, new challenges are on the horizon for the region: “A fairly rapidly aging population is one of the greatest challenges the region will face, as labor force growth is increasingly constrained, health care needs continue to rise, housing needs change, and school-age population are altered. The single most important thing many communities in the region can do in anticipating and planning for their future is to better comprehend the dynamics of their own population aging and change.”

Perhaps the dynamics of their own population aging and changing is, indeed, the most important thing that the communities in the region need to better comprehend in anticipating and planning for their future, but sustaining that organic and engaged relationship between person/citizen and environment — which I assume goes a LONG way in encouraging that aforementioned growth — should be up there in terms of priorities. Community Builders, an initiative of the region’s nonprofit Sonoran Institute, agrees.

Photo: Lauren Orr

Photo: Lauren Orr

According to The Atlantic’s CityLab, a “recent report from Community Builders… looks at how the mountain states might think about economic development in a modern economic landscape. To that end, the group surveyed 1,000 or so business owners and community members to find out what attracted them to the region and what they value most when it comes to choosing where to live and do business.”

“We were really interested in understanding this both from the perspective of business community and also from employees,” the institute’s Clark Anderson told CityLab. “So much of it is about attracting talent. Where do the smart, sharp, creative people want to be? Why are people and businesses attracted to one community over another?”

“There is a desire for walkability, a desire for convenience.”

What exactly does “walkability” and “convenience” mean? This graph breaks it down rather succinctly.

Image: CityLab

Image: CityLab

“We’re going through the exact same trends that are happening in the rest of the country,” Anderson continues. “Not at the same level of density, but there is a desire for walkability, a desire for convenience — for the design of the place that makes it an intriguing place to walk.”

Sounds like a plan to me!

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