Friday, February 5, 2010

Area’s nest egg needs care and feeding

The Sun Valley area's primary economic asset is itself.

The outdoor lifestyle that exists here is an uncommonly rich concoction of stunning natural mountain terrain and manmade additions like ski lifts, groomed Nordic trails, backcountry hiking trails, and performing and visual arts.

These assets are like a family's nest egg, the principal upon which interest derived from visitors to the area is earned.

The nest egg needs care and feeding with regular infusions of cash to grow and remain healthy. A healthy nest egg is key if the area is to get to the other side of the Great Recession in one piece.

The nest egg needs the best leadership, vision and energy the area can find for community development, transportation and regional events. Luckily, resourceful people are already at work devising ways to help the area survive.

For example, Bald Mountain is going to get a life-saving layer of protection this year when the U.S. Forest Service treats trees threatened by bark beetles with an eco-friendly substance that should repel the bugs and stop them from reproducing.

After more than $15 million was spent to save the mountain from the ravages of the Castle Rock Fire in 2007, it would be a shame to see it stripped of trees by ravenous, rampaging beetles. It would not only be ugly, but could harm the economy.

If the beetle battle is as successful as similar efforts in Oregon, Baldy will remain a tree-covered landmark, exactly the opposite of its moniker.

In another nest-egg-friendly effort, a 12-person committee is looking at future transportation options to reduce auto traffic and link Ketchum with Sun Valley. It has released a list of options that includes buses, a fixed-rail trolley and a gondola.

Drawings show a gondola that would run from River Run to a lot near the post office, up Fourth Street and end in Sun Valley at the Pavilion.

Unlike adding buses to the area's existing bus system, developing a town-to-town trolley or gondola wouldn't be cheap or easy. A trolley would be nice, but not unique. A gondola, however, would be cool and it could put Sun Valley back on the map of "must-see" mountain resorts.

Projects like this could protect and strengthen the economic foundation of the valley, which is tourism. If there's any silver lining in the Great Recession, it may be that is has stripped away any illusions about that.

The Sun Valley area must harness its resources—energetic people, stable resort ownership and committed communities—to find happier economic days ahead.

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.