Nestled between stunning mountain ranges with the river as its life blood, life in the Banana Belt is idyllic in many ways. We value our quality of life so much that many of us made, and continue to make, sacrifices just to be here. Yet many residents find it difficult to find affordable places to live. Thirty percent of working rural landscapes have been replaced by development since 1982. Wildfire threats are increasing as our forest health is poor, and the impacts of growth in outdoor recreation are becoming measurable.
We recognize the depth of our community caring and its capacity and commitment to address these issues are powerful forces for positive change. Envision Chaffee County enhances our community’s ability to collectively create impact. This means building on our many strengths, taking a longer-term view, and building a culture where we connect our many programs, organizations, and energies to achieve bigger shared goals together.
How Do We Envision?
Envision started in 2017 to enlist citizens with diverse backgrounds and views to listen, learn from each other, and build solutions together. Our approach is systematic:
We start by listening. The Envision Community Survey conducted in the fall of 2017 reached 1,203 people, asking citizens what they most value and what they are most concerned about as they look toward the future. Envision Interviews reached an additional 95 community members. Six public meetings attended by 300 citizens over five months further developed the shared vision:
- Our forests, waters, and wildlife are healthy and in balance with outdoor recreation.
- Our community members are able to live locally and benefit from a resilient economy.
- Our community remains friendly, engaged, and culturally connected.
- We have sustainable agriculture, beautiful rural landscapes, and development focused in and around towns.
Measuring current trends. Envision reached out to the best possible sources to indicate if we are moving toward or away from the Community Vision. We assign grades to these measures and summarize them in the Envision Community Vision Report Card. Our first report had some “A’s” (e.g., community) and a few “F’s” (e.g., housing and forest health), all helping to focus our work.
Action planning. In January 2018, we invited community members to join Action Teams to develop plans to move toward our Community Vision. The response was powerful – 184 people joined, contributing over 5,000 hours to develop ideas and solutions appropriate for Chaffee County. These were ranked by feasibility and impact with the strongest forming the Envision Community Action Plan.
The future. Community members, businesses and government representatives are implementing the action plans. Read our latest news now! We will check in periodically to measure progress, adjust efforts as needed and inform the broader community about these efforts and invite more people to participate.
How did Envision begin?
In 2016, the Envision “Core Team” of nine concerned citizens came together to discuss the future of Chaffee County, noting that the county had been discovered and felt to be at a “tipping point.” The economy is thriving, which is advantageous for many. However, rapid growth in population, tourism, traffic, second homeownership, housing prices, impacts from outdoor recreation, and more are threatening the very things that make Chaffee County special.
The Core Team felt that a longer-term view and community engagement was needed, to plan for growth and address ecosystem issues. The team won planning funding from the LOR Foundation, an organization supporting rural communities across five intermountain states in managing their futures. This funding was augmented by the Department of Local Affairs and Chaffee County.
Chaffee County Commissioners voted unanimously in September 2017 to convene Envision Chaffee County, signing a Proclamation that supports the project. In 2018, voters passed a ballot measure that generates annual funding to support Envision-created programs in the areas of forest health, clean water, sustained agriculture and balanced recreation growth. Envision has won and continues to seek multiple grants and additional funding to support all of its work.
Central Colorado Conservancy’s role in Envision
Central Colorado Conservancy is a partner in Envision Chaffee County. As a nonprofit, the Conservancy administers grant funding and provides additional assistance such as staff and office support. The organization’s volunteer board members provide in-kind management and coordination services, including work by Board President Cindy Williams, who is Envision’s co-leader.
Thank you for your interest in helping to shape the future of Chaffee County!