Ski workers look for a home
Imagine Adam's Rib in operation. Now picture
4,300 new workers scrambling for housing in a county that boasted
five vacant housing units last
"It's not clear where
the new people would go," says Cathy Heicher, a member of Eagle
County's planning commission.
One thing is
certain: Even if the resort became an ace at providing affordable
housing, Adam's Rib would cause further dislocation in Western
Colorado, where ski industry workers are finding it increasingly
difficult to find a place called home.
planners say Adam's Rib will send a wave of workers to the towns
that line Interstate 70 west of Eagle. Nearby Gypsum, home to a new
gypsum waferboard plant, is eager for more growth. And next door is
little Dotsero, a trailer park built in the 1980s to house highway
construction workers. But those towns alone can't accommodate the
growth, says Heicher.
Farther west there's New
Castle, Silt and Rifle - towns that already serve as remote bedroom
communities for Aspen. If the wave crashes there, the area could
become the next Lake County, which borders Eagle County to the
north and exports half its workforce to ski areas in neighboring
counties (HCN, 4/17/95).
Lake County's commuter
population, mainly based in Leadville, leans hard on social
services: Resort workers need day care for the kids and food stamps
for the down times. Family stress also leads to increased substance
abuse, domestic violence, teen pregnancy and youth crime, says
Kathleen Forinesh, director of health and human services for Eagle
County. "Rapid change means all those problems increase," she says.
Adam's Rib could also mean more traffic and a
more dangerous commute. Although Department of Transportation
officials say Interstate 70 between Rifle and Vail is safer than
most roads, opponents of the ski area argue that interstate traffic
is already jammed. They cite 35 road closures on I-70 last winter
due to bottlenecks and bad weather and a 60 percent increase in
traffic over the Continental Divide from 1981 to
Migratory ripples emanating from Adam's
Rib could compound housing shortages in towns like Basalt,
Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, middle-class towns near Aspen now
being targeted as hot second-home markets. A 300-home development
outside of neighboring Carbondale offers homes priced as high as
$300,000. Sniffs one official: "It's 40 miles from Aspen and
they're still calling it Aspen Glen."