Longtime resident stakes claim but doesn’t lock gate in shrinking valley | PostIndependent.com

Longtime resident stakes claim but doesn’t lock gate in shrinking valley

I’ve been working as a reporter at the Post Independent for almost a month now, but it took at least a couple weeks to come up with a catchy, double-entendre name for this column. After all, I’m taking the space former Post Independent reporter Tamie Meck had, on Tuesdays in this very spot, and her “Meck My Day” was pretty darn clever.

Actually, Tamie and I go way back. We grew up in Aspen together, and like many Aspen High School graduates, we both moved on.

I’ve spent nearly all of my life in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys. My father first came here in 1952 in a station wagon full of buddies from Southern California. He skied in Aspen and swore he’d figure out a way to someday move here. That happened when my family and I moved to Aspen in 1972, when I was 12.

During the ’70s, there was no sense of the Roaring Fork Valley as a community-at-large. Basalt could have been a million miles away. Carbondale was another country. Glenwood was another planet.

And Rifle – we used to jump on school buses to watch Aspen play Rifle in high school football games. The Rifle Bears would consistently pummel the Aspen Skiers. The Bears were sons of ranchers. The skiers were skinny kids from a fancy ski resort. We didn’t stand a chance.

Like most high school graduates, I immediately jumped ship. College, river running and falling in and out of love took me to other parts of Colorado, Utah, Montana, California and New England. Once, I packed a big U-Haul truck and removed every item I ever owned from this neck of the woods. But I came back.

The last time I returned – for good – I didn’t come back to Aspen. It was 1994 and I headed to Basalt and lived in a little cabin (and I mean little!) for five years. Watching real estate prices spiral out of control (they always seemed beyond reach, really) I started looking at ways I could actually buy someplace to call home, without winning an employee housing lottery or shoehorning myself into a tiny condo. I found it in New Castle. A funky Victorian house just off Main Street called my name and I bought it.

Now, I’m in Rifle Bear country. My husband – who was born in Aspen and raised there, too – and I have a small spread just outside town. We have more than we could ever dream of having had we stayed in Aspen, where the average home price is over $4 million.

Along the way, the Roaring Fork Valley, and the Colorado River Valley for that matter, have gotten a lot smaller. Towns seem more connected to one another. This part of Colorado is our home.

So why am I telling you all this?

There’s a phenomenon when people find a place to be, a place that feels right to call home. Now that we’ve found this place, they think, we need to lock the gate. It becomes a contest of who has lived here longer, who can stake their claim with more validity. But I don’t buy it. We’re all here. We’re all part of the whole and that means we all need to figure out a way to care for and manage what we’ve got – and to understand that we don’t have an exclusive right to any of it.

Carrie Click can be reached at cclick@postindependent.com.

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