Chapter 2 - Our Changing Society
A. Planning The Valley's Future
As a new century approaches, communities all over the nation have embarked
upon efforts to reflect upon their accomplishments, their continuous challenges,
and upon visions of things to come. This represents the effort both to
restore historical links of vibrant community life and to guarantee community
survival in the complex, turbulent years of a fast-changing environment.
Planning, revitalization schemes, renewal efforts, crisis response,
alternative options, impact analyses and plans all represent new forms
of mobilizing people and resources to create safe and vibrant communities.
Purposeful change in a community happens in several ways. There is strategic
planning, which starts with a community's mission and develops a plan for
objectives to be achieved within a period of time; and visioning, which
looks at the past, present and future as a coherent study of change and
as a mechanism for being inspired and thinking about today's realities.
By combining data and judgment, and analyzing trends, preferable futures
evolve through a systematic process of public involvement. Through this
effort the Estes Valley developed the central mechanism for a community-based
There are two basic directions through which one can approach the study
of Estes Park and at the same time forecast potential developments and
These general principles and explanations are important if the proposed
plan is to be understood as part of a larger context of transformation,
and of rapidly changing socio-demographic and economic circumstances. There
are really no "perfect" plans. Plans must be flexible, changeable, modular,
and capable of adapting to changing times.
Through an historical, econometric, "predictive" model, we can ask ourselves
what trends, events, or forecasts can be made with regard to existing or
emerging social, political, economic, and technological situations that
may lead to probable future states. One moves from the present (with knowledge
of the past) towards the future.
The second direction is a "normative" approach. It involves describing
preferred futures and desired goals and objectives about the future. Normative
forecasting compares an analysis of the present community with idealized
or desired future states of the identifying the means to achieve desired
RECOGNIZING TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS
Three important premises will guide our effort to understand the trends
and developments affecting the future of Estes Park.
TRANSFORMATIONS CHARACTERIZING AMERICAN SOCIETY
Trend is not destiny, i.e., we can -- indeed we must -- interact with our
destiny. While futures may not be predicted, futures can be created.
Projections often tend not to be borne out. We have very few surprise-free
conditions. Therefore, communities must develop the capacity to work with
contingency and flexibility.
We rarely have the information or the time and resources to be able to
make exact predictions. Therefore, it is better to be approximately right
than precisely wrong. We need to decide and operate within a framework
of reasonable approximation, especially in fast-changing, multi-constituency
Change permeates every aspect of our lives. Political and social institutions
are in constant flux, social values are shifting radically and moral and
ethical standards are coming under continuous attacks. In this context,
there are five major transformations that characterize American society
TRENDS LIKELY TO AFFECT THE U.S. IN THE NEXT TWO DECADES
Increasing societal complexity and interdependence which, at the same time,
may contribute to the vulnerability of the social system.
Increasing magnitude of effects in terms of intensity, severity and duration
which ultimately may test the tolerance or resiliency of the surrounding
The rapidity of change.
The search for a more equitable system in determining who benefits and
The demand to cope and the recognition that we can and must interact with
our destiny. We need to solve our problems before they grow even bigger,
or their effects become irreversible.
A number of specific global and national trends are listed in Chapter
One. Recent reports (see in particular John L. Petersen's "The Road to
2015", 1994) suggest that there are additional trends that will affect
the United States in the next two decades:
CHANGING VALUES, BELIEFS AND DEMOGRAPHICS IN COLORADO
Family settings in which children grow up will cause continuous problems
for social legislation. An increasing number of children are being brought
up in poverty and with diminished educational capabilities, raising questions
as to the long-term competitiveness of the U.S. economy.
By the turn of the century, a larger proportion of Americans will be members
of discernible minority groups and, given current trends, most Hispanics
and Asians will be geographically clustered in only a few states.
Americans will live longer than ever before, and the elderly population
will grow. Problems will increase related to health, limitations of routine
activities, jobs, etc.
The aging of the population will increasingly affect everyone. As support
structures within families narrow, issues of both elder care and child
care will evolve and intensify.
At both local and regional levels, population will concentrate in fewer
areas. Megapolitan concentrations will dominate large parts of the nation
(e.g., Colorado's Front Range). In such growth areas, people will experience
traffic congestion, the need to replace aging infrastructures, and demand
for specialized workers.
In the book, Choices for Colorado's Future, six changing values
and emerging beliefs are described as likely to affect potential futures
in the state. This study suggests that in the coming decade, citizens will
make different choices for themselves, their lifestyles, the economy and
politics than they did in the last decade. Emerging values and beliefs
include principles of sustainability, ecology, knowledge as more valuable
than material goods, consumerism, questions of human development and equity,
and yearning for a common vision of a just, equitable and ethical society.
FIGURE 2.1 POPULATION PROJECTIONS (IN '000S)
Demographic projections made in 1994 indicate that by 2020 Colorado's
population will grow to 4,871,000 people, and will be ranked as the 24th
most populous state in the nation. The proportion of population under age
20 is expected to drop in all states. In Colorado that drop will be from
28.8% to 25.3%.
Colorado's demographic composition is expected to change considerably,
with a marked increase in senior population. The graying of America will
continue well into the next century, particularly with the aging of the
baby boom. Projected growth in the older population is expected to raise
the median age to 36 by the year 2000, and to 42 by the year 2030 (compared
to 30 in 1950). This is particularly important to Northern Colorado. Larimer
County is getting older -- compared to the state, the county's population
aged 45-64 jumped by 28% between 1990 and 1994.
B. Forces of Transformation in the Estes Valley
INFLUENCES OF THE AGING POPULATION
While growth in the area during the 1970s was quite rapid, it slowed
in the 1980s (this was true for the entire state). It started increasing
again by the 1990 Census, showing an annual growth rate of 3.1% for the
Town of Estes Park. Between 1960-1990 the population of the Estes Valley
grew faster than the state.
The population profile in Larimer County from 1980 to 2010 shows that
the surrounding territory will provide steady growth, which will also affect
the Estes Valley. Projections point to the heavy dominance, particularly
in Census Track 28 (Estes Valley area), of white elderly persons, closely
divided between males and females (2963 males vs. 3052 females, for a total
By 1990 the average age in Estes Park was 42.6 years old, more than
10 years older than the average Coloradan. This is consistent with the
overall profile of the community as having a high number of retirees, and
is expected to continue given the national trends of retirees preferring
to reside in what has broadly been called the Fort Collins-Loveland area.
The Town of Estes Park has a high number of retirees and, therefore, people
not looking for work. Outside the Town in the Estes Valley, a large portion
are working or looking for work. This socio-economic profile is skewed
compared to the larger area of Larimer County, which is characterized by
a high-paying manufacturing sector and significant segments of the population
in services and information.
The older population exhibits different spending patterns from younger
consumers. Older populations typically devote a high proportion of their
expenditures to health (including insurance premiums), food and home furnishings.
INFLUENCES OF TOURISM
Estes Valley and Rocky Mountain National Park coexist in a duality of
serving visitors with what the community has to offer and with what a visit
to Rocky Mountain National Park has to offer. By 1996 the number of Park
visitors reached the impressive total of approximately 3.2 million people.
That number is expected to continue to increase.
The challenge is in the overall capacity of RMNP to accommodate this
number of annual visitors. Two contradictory forces affect the region.
On one hand, continuously increasing numbers of people are attracted to
the Park. On the other hand, wildlife conservationists continuously argue
for restrictions, as the very character of the Park can be distorted by
unwieldy numbers of visitors.
The tourist profile involves three major groups of individuals:
This last group must especially be understood, because it represents a
large number of people who may impact the community in terms of one-day
services (especially services and casual shopping). They are also the urban
residents of the Front Range who explore the immediate mountain facilities
and, therefore, demand opportunities typically associated with elderly
citizens, but also the entertainment of younger families.
Tourists who come from other parts of the nation.
Tourists from the immediate vicinity, say Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska.
"Day-trippers" who use Estes Park from easily-accessible surrounding counties.
A specialized study was conducted by Colorado State University entitled
"Recreational and Forest Management Preferences of Northern Colorado Front
Range Residents" (August 1993). When asked, a large number of those questioned
pointed out that they do participate in outdoor recreation (88%), with
summer being the most popular season. About 1/3 indicated that they recreate
during fall or winter. About 25% of the sample recreates during every season
of the year. This study also points out that these people use part of their
time in Estes Park.
"LARGER CONTEXT" CRITICAL FORCES INFLUENCING THE ESTES VALLEY
There are six related issues which may act as critical forces in understanding
the larger context of transformation in the Estes Valley:
Much of the next two decades' most rapid growth will be in second-tier
cities that are creating jobs rapidly and also becoming havens for "urban
refugees," especially from the vast bi-coastal megalopolitan concentrations.
Technological breakthroughs, especially in telecommuting, will provide
further freedom from the tyranny of time and space, thus making location
less critical. Finally, both in terms of institutional shifts and value
transformations, Estes Park -- as part of national far-reaching changes
-- will experience dramatic alterations in social structure, as the community
will become more complex, technical, and interdependent.
The extent to which the Valley can be a self-sustained community versus
part of a larger context, i.e., dependent for many of its services on other
cities such as Fort Collins and Loveland. It is probable that the Town
of Estes Park will be part of a larger complex or "urban territory."
Future population growth, especially given the boom and bust history of
Colorado, is central to all planning efforts. Projections point to healthy
rates of growth, and a significantly increasing older population.
The visitor profile (tourists and day-trippers) must be continuously monitored
as subtle changes seem to be under way. Visitors (especially day-trippers)
may be of higher income with demands for better and more varied services.
Mobility and accessibility will affect everything from the visitor experience
to the residents' perception of quality of life.
The vision of the Estes community (both Town and Valley) faces the perennial
dilemmas between "old timers" and "newcomers," growth and stability, access
and remoteness -- newly tempered with the emerging trends of seeking equity,
ecosystem balances and development of consensus as to what can be done
by people who believe they can interact with their destiny.
The mechanisms of implementing change and promoting action through specific
strategies and action are the forces that will determine the plan's ultimate
success. Building partnerships and alliances, balancing rights and responsibilities,
and emphasizing functional boundaries and linkages in Northern Colorado
are a strong foundation for that long-term success.
MAXIMIZING CORE CAPABILITIES AND CRAFTING A COHERENT STRATEGY
At the center of any future planning effort is the articulation of a
community "image" or idealized perception which, in the Estes Valley, has
been changing recently to incorporate three major characteristics:
In what has become a major urban region and an emerging megalopolis along
Colorado's Front Range (where 80% of the state's population is found),
tourism poses a special challenge for all citizens and certainly for Estes
Park. All studies have pointed out that tourism and destination resort
communities promote economic activity and visibility, but they also create
a set of difficult social, administrative and environmental problems.
Estes Park as an alpine gateway and service community;
Rocky Mountain National Park visitation and recreation; and
Wildlife (accessible to view) and communion with nature.
Mountain and resort communities throughout Colorado are grappling with
these challenges. Those who are moving successfully towards developing
a sustainable community while maintaining local identity tend to be working
through regional collaboration and local action.
All over the world, communities, nations and regions are trying to do
something about the forces of change and transformation and in many cases
respond to the challenges of rapid growth. In the end, the task of doing
something rests with the local community and with the mobilization of citizens
to meet their common problems.
This has also been the thrust of the special edition of High Country
News, entitled "Grappling with Growth," showing how communities throughout
the West have been trying to limit, redistribute or channelize population
growth. Such techniques include traditional zoning, density bonus for housing
clusters, allowing development only on the basis of performance standards,
extraction fees, set-asides, and real estate transfer taxes. Any planning
effort must be based on the fact that the strategies of growth are not
simply temporary measures to stem what looks like overwhelming transformation.
Instead, communities must develop the institutional patience
that allows them to see growth as a long-range and sustained commitment
toward meaningful community engagement and coping with change and transformation.
ELEMENTS OF A COHERENT STRATEGY
Whatever specific tactics and strategies are articulated, the question
of growth and community development raises much larger issues. Any coherent
strategy will address the following elements:
Articulating a strategic vision of the future.
Building quality into a community's programs and services, particularly
if it plans to attract certain types of populations.
Building mechanisms for environmental scanning and for monitoring change
in terms of present and emerging trends and developments.
Continuous participation of all stakeholders in the community and empowerment
of many groups so that they can participate in discussions and support
decision making. Developing organization and procedures to maintain momentum
and means for monitoring and calibrating performance.
Developing the capacity to assume risks in terms of commitment and courage
to undertake innovative actions.
Encouraging flexibility and the capacity to respond to both surprises and
new emergent trends and developments. Diversifying the economic base to
permit adaptation to change and to altered circumstances in the perennial
problem of boom and bust cycles.
Combining structural and non-structural solutions, especially in terms
of both physical infrastructure changes and also institutional and behavioral
adaptations. Establishing long-range budgeting, public and private sector
interaction, and interdependence with the larger region.
Perhaps more important than anything else is the fundamental interdependence
of the Estes Valley, Larimer County, and Northern Colorado. This complex
interdependence requires an understanding of the forms and forces of cooperation,
regionalism, and interdependence. This becomes particularly important with
the new mix of permanent residents (retirees as well as younger population)
and the shifting profile of the tourist (more affluent and environmentally
MOBILIZING THE COMMUNITY AND MONITORING CHANGE
A continuous process of planning becomes what one may call a "rolling
plan." Such a plan, together with consistent monitoring could guarantee
the incorporation of shifting strategies responsive to changes in both
the community and the surrounding environment.
Estes Park's probable future is based on the strengths of its physical
environment with a combination of tourism and retirees, and high community
spirit. At the same time Estes Park has the weaknesses of the lack of affordable
housing, competing and conflicting demands by shifting stakeholders in
the community (such as younger vs. older populations) and the perennial
conflict between creating new economic opportunities vs. preserving environmental
The issues are but part of the challenges that all settlements face
in the harsh competitive and turbulent environment of this and coming decades.
They point to the central importance of a "civic infrastructure" that becomes
the key ingredient for a community's survival and future growth. As expressed
in the National Civic Index, there are 10 critical components that cities
must possess (all or most of them) in order to have a fighting chance for
remaining healthy communities:
Estes Park has to face the challenges of the future through systematic
environmental scanning, challenging of assumptions, contingency planning,
and above all through community mobilization in preparation for more turbulent
times. They are a necessary means for articulating a purposeful community
image of the future.
A high level of citizen participation, often culminating in broad consensus;
Community leadership that is representative and inclusive of diverse interests;
Efficient and effective delivery of public services;
Focused and effective voluntarism and philanthropy;
Approaches to inter-group relations that capitalize on cultural diversity;
Civic education taught and nurtured in the classrooms and neighborhoods
Trusted forms for community information sharing;
Capacity for cooperation and consensus building, such as neighborhood associations,
city-county government, or public-private partnerships;
Strategic, long-term planning and management; and
Regional or inter-community cooperation in tackling shared problems.
The crisis of our time is not so much the lack of will or mistrust toward
our institutions. It is more the absence of a shared vision that can capture
the imagination of people and of an enthusiastic commitment to work for
the common good. Without a positive image of the future, nations and communities
perish. Without enthusiasm and sharing of meaning, passage to the future
becomes less interesting and much more difficult and unpredictable.
C. The Valley's "Preferred" Direction
The "preferred" direction set forth below describes the desires, hopes,
and visions of the community as expressed during several public workshops.
While it is difficult to capture or to summarize the "sense of community"
and the common aspirations of the citizens of the Valley, one can discern
certain dominant themes and broad directions.
Following the public workshops and the series of citizens' reactions,
there emerged three overarching directions that the residents have for
the future of Estes Valley:
In a schematic fashion these three overlapping directions in their core
express the desire for balanced growth, sustainable development, harmonious
co-existence, and social-well being.
The relationship of people to nature and surrounding hinterland (NATURE)
The guarantee of survival of the community (COMMUNITY)
The Enhancement of the "good life" or fulfillment (QOL)
The numbers inside the circles represent the following broad goals as
expressed in the public workshop:
Obviously such "preferred directions" contain underlying dilemmas encountered
in any community wishing to improve its overall quality of life, sense
of community and stewardship of it natural resources.
Protecting and maintaining its natural beauty, scenic vistas, river systems,
wetlands, and wildlife habitat.
Promoting man-made development that is in harmony with its environmental
Encouraging a range of housing opportunities.
Welcoming and accommodating visitors.
Leading in the stewardship of the Valley's natural resources.
Fostering development of the cultural arts.
Offering unique outdoor recreation opportunities
Becoming a model National Park gateway community.
Maintaining a balance between the needs of local residents and tourism.
Recognizing the synergy between tourism and the retirement community.
Next chapter - Chapter
3 - Economic Overview