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For the week of May 16 through May 22, 2001

Blaine County no place to hide

Despite its remote appearance, Blaine County is a not a refuge from change. How change affects life here is going to be a test of both individual and community character.

Data dribbling in from last year’s U.S. Census are beginning to give form to the changes and the challenges.

In the 10 years between 1990 and 2000, Blaine County’s population increased 40 percent. The 13,552 residents here 10 years ago now have 5,439 new neighbors, for a total population of 18,991.

The population of Hispanic origin is now 2,030, up from 397 recorded in the 1990 census—a 400 percent increase. Hispanics now constitute 11 percent of the county’s total population, up from 3 percent.

There are 6,000 more jobs in the county than in 1990.

Hailey is still the fastest growing town in the county—home to workers who must commute to jobs in Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Property values have soared from a total of $1.5 billion in assessed valuation to more than $5 billion, according to county tax figures.

These are just numbers, and they don’t tell the whole story.

In Blaine County, changes include skyrocketing housing costs, a congested highway, growing student populations, greater prosperity—and collisions of values.

New arrivals bring all kinds of baggage—good and bad¾ from elsewhere. They will inevitably change the valley, but the valley will retain its unique and beautiful aspects only if it can change the newcomers, too.

The challenges:

Will we still be friendly or will we turn surly and insular, irritated by growing pains?

Will we retain the joy of daily contact with the outdoors and the community camaraderie that creates, or will we retreat behind security gates and privacy fences?

Will we be active in local government and community organizations, or will we submit to apathy?

Will we continue to value and protect the area’s natural beauty, clean air and clean water—or let ourselves be overwhelmed by the difficulty of balancing population and the environment?

Will we change our commuting and driving habits enough to prevent the valley from becoming another asphalt sea?

Will we agree to live closer to our neighbors or let sprawl rule?

Will we retain the best of our small-town roots--the care and compassion that surface during times of crisis and turmoil—or not?

Whether Blaine County remains a great place to live depends on how each and every person in the county chooses to answer those questions between now and the next U.S. Census.

Blaine County is no place to hide, but it’s a good place to confront modern pressures and shape them in ways that will create a place everyone can happily call home.




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