Just like Dylan said, “The times they are a changing.” Demographics, man, demographics. I have heard for decades that the population of the valley was going to double or triple faster than you could say “let’s build another small city development.”
But, thankfully, it hasn’t really happened yet, not like the experts predicted. Carbondale has grown in the past decade. According to the town’s draft comprehensive plan, we had a 24 percent increase in population, a total of 2,400 new people, in the past 10 years. According to the 2010 census, the population was 6,427. Sounds like a lot of new folks but my personal impression is that Carbondale seems almost less crowded than it did a decade ago.
In past decades, it seemed to me that there was more messy vitality in Carbondale. More ski bums. More bars. More work, mostly upvalley. More workers. Cheaper housing. Maybe that’s just my perception because I used to go out and rage a bit more but the latest statistics back me up. Carbondale still has plenty of personality, but perhaps it shows itself as art and concerts and theater more than in past times.
Data reveals that Carbondale’s population is older now. The draft plan, under the heading, “Who is in Carbondale” explains that, “During 2000-2010 Carbondale’s population became generally older and households with elderly individuals increased.” This is not a big surprise. Those of us who have lived long enough to be considered old have learned to love Carbondale. We are doing our best not to be expelled by economic or other circumstances.
When my wife and I eventually move into Carbondale senior housing we’ll be able to use our little red wagon to pull our belongings down the street to the development. We live two blocks away. I envision a grand garage sale, unloading my record collection, snowboards, kayaks, golf clubs and Harley collection, and then jamming what’s left into the wagon and rolling it to a simpler life in the shadow of Mt. Sopris.
Carbondale’s draft plan wisely acknowledges the senior skew and is looking at housing and amenities designed to accommodate local silver eagles. Good. Just in time. I may not get any Social Security but hopefully, thanks to the planning that’s happening now, I will be able to afford a cubicle with a hot plate in my hometown.
Thankfully, I haven’t retired yet. Carbondale still has a great nightlife for any town its size. The Black Nugget is about to reopen after a remodel. Between the new Nugget, Carbondale Beer Works, Steve’s Guitars, Pac3, Phat Thai, The Pour House and Mi Casita, you can stumble around a small downtown area, have some drinks and hear some great live music, or even the thump thumpa of a local DJ. Not all towns have a scene like Carbondale.
Two-thirds of Carbondale workers leave town for their jobs. For the third that’s left we apparently work in “light manufacturing” mostly. This is baffling to me because I see a lot more people working for nonprofits, education and the service industry than in “light manufacturing.”
The plan also notes that retail is not in the top three employers and that the local economy is not reliant on tourism and development. Since the document concludes that light manufacturing is such an important part of our local economy, the plan is to attract more light industrial employers to Carbondale. I prefer tourists to gravel pits but we will see what they come up with.
According to the draft plan, “the white, non-Latino population, decreased by 17 percent, when measured as a percent of the total. Latino and other populations experienced 7 percent and 8 percent relative gains.”
Like the nation, Carbondale is more diverse. Some might lament this, but others see opportunity and vibrancy in the new mix. Carbondale’s draft plan reflects a community that wants to grow carefully and responsibly based on principals of community, ecology and economy. Even though change is slow and not every change is something we all agree on, I am glad to be here.
Steve Skinner notes that Carbondale Trustees are still taking feedback on the comprehensive draft plan. Read it at Carbondalegov.org. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.