It's no secret that many believe Craig and Moffat County are on the cusp of a growth cycle that will potentially lead to an influx of new residents, businesses and economic advantages.
Their beliefs aren't unfounded: the signs of a burgeoning community certainly are there for those looking.
There's the new Wal-Mart Supercenter, potential to acquire businesses that follow new Wal-Mart locations, a new Walgreens, oil and gas exploration, and the possibility of having a new Colorado Northwestern Community College campus in coming years.
This fails to mention the prospect of new health care and education facilities should The Memorial Hospital (1A) and Moffat County School District (3A) ballot questions pass in November. Or, another very real possibility - that residential developers will soon look beyond Steamboat Springs and Hayden and choose Craig as a location for the new single- and multi-family homes our community desperately needs.
But, none of this is the new news. These prospects have been discussed, speculated, considered and anticipated for months.
A less prominent topic has been what can be done in preparation for this growth.
This was one subject of conversation for the editorial board at Monday's meeting.
It is the board's opinion that growth, though it inevitably presents headaches and frustrations for communities fortunate enough to experience it, is not only good but vital for small towns such as ours. It's like running a business - if you're not expanding and moving forward, you're going backward.
But, growth is not a no-cost luxury. There is responsibility that comes with it, and these tasks should be taken seriously.
The board believes a commission of government officials and employees, human service agency representatives, nonprofit groups, and community members needs to be implemented to discuss proactive ways to prepare for the development of Craig and Moffat County.
This commission could either be formed independently, or be an assignment of an existing community group. However, the board believes it imperative that such a commission would require a wide-range of involvement and perspective; our area's future is too big a topic and too important to be left solely to the desires of a singular body.
The commission could discuss, and ultimately lay the foundation for, a blueprint of what they want Craig and Moffat County to look like in coming years.
Although the growth that many anticipate is yet to be a reality for our community, there nonetheless remains a desperate need to prepare for it.
We need a plan for infrastructure, not only the traditional roads and utilities, but also amenities that today's high-tech world requires, such as high-speed and wireless Internet. We need a public transit system with designated pick up and delivery points that will allow residents a low-cost transportation option for maneuvering around town, while simultaneously relieving our city streets from wear and tear and heavy traffic.
We need a business plan and incentive package to recruit new businesses and developments that would either highlight existing businesses or offer products and services not found in Craig. We need our governments to begin thinking of ways additional tax revenue will be spent to improve the community and complement residents' quality of life.
We need to consider defined taxing districts, enterprise and improvement zones, and a community-wide call for the redevelopment of blighted and dilapidated areas.
And on and on it goes :
It is probable that conversations regarding these topics have been discussed in various circles in our area.
But, it is doubtful that there exists such a thing as the multi-agency and community member-included commission with the resources, staff and influence that the editorial board believes is critical to forming an appealing future.
This effort, the board believes, is needed now. As the potential for the projects listed above grows greater by the minute, tomorrow's future is today's responsibility.
Editor's Note: The editorial board will publish its opinion in the Saturday Morning Press on the Moffat County School District's proposed bond issue.