Friday, November 5, 2004

The importance of being involved

The hangover from the Tuesday election hadn?t worn off and it was cold and rainy outside to boot. But 100 or so people mostly from Hailey and southward nevertheless ventured into the night to cram the Old Blaine County Courthouse meeting room for a peek at the future.

Arrayed around the room were board displays bearing an almost indigestible volume of facts and maps devoted to where a new Wood River Valley area airport might be located.

Clearly, as a citizens committee studying possible sites begins to narrow its choices and the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority aims to make its own decision next year, residents near some of these sites want their pros and cons to be heard.

And opportunities are ample for being heard.

In addition to the open house Wednesday night, where airport consultants and Friedman Airport staff members fielded questions, another meeting is set for 6 p.m. Sunday at the O?Gara ranch on Price Lane, south of Bellevue. The beauty of this community gathering is that it?s being organized not by officialdom but by residents who want a hand in their future.

Then there?s the Nov. 16 meeting of the site selection committee, also at the courthouse and also open to the public.

What this amounts to is a sizable group of residents taking time to inform themselves about the complicated and, to some, baffling process of finding a possible suitable site for a new airport.

Make no mistake. Not all these homeowners are pleased with some of the sites being studied--understandably, those near their homes or in areas inhabited by wildlife.

But in asking for explanations of why this possible site or that potential site is on the list, they?re becoming encyclopedia smart about elements required for relocating an airport and, just as importantly, areas that are eliminated.

Since a final lineup of recommended potential sites has yet to be made, residents throughout the county have time to register their comments or, at a minimum, listen to deliberations of the site selection committee.

An important civic lesson is involved in residents looking for explanations and answers. They?re also setting an example. The greater the participation by citizens in decisions that shape the character of the Wood River Valley the greater the lasting quality and general public consensus.
The status quo no longer rules. Changes are afoot that will forever influence lifestyle in these parts. Citizens who don?t take part have few grounds to complain later.

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