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I am often amazed how naïve many people are when they consider moving to rural Colorado. Having lived there for several decades (then leaving), I think I have a pretty good perspective of what “rural Colorado” is like. I should differentiate, for purposes of this posting, areas of rural Colorado on the eastern plains versus the rural areas basically west of I-25. This post relates to those latter areas, though some comments apply to both. Herewith, the 6 things people should know about rural Colorado (west of I-25 to the Utah line):
1. It’s a lot happier place to live if you don’t have to make a living. Read most of the glowing posts about living in rural Colorado and, chances are, it was written by an individual who moved there with a pot of money from selling a home or real estate elsewhere, gets a healthy pension or retirement, or is independently wealthy. You will see a lot fewer glowing posts from people who actually have to work and make a living in rural Colorado. They are often too busy trying to eke out a living to say much.
2. Whatever you do for a living in rural Colorado, you will probably make less at it than elsewhere; most of what you must buy to live will likely cost more. That is the price of living in rural Colorado. I lived for a number of years in one of the “cheaper” areas of rural Colorado. I worked myself up to one of the highest paid salaried jobs in the area. When I left the state to take a similar job, my overall living expenses actually went down a little bit and my salary went up about 50%. That’s not unusual.
3. If you live in rural Colorado with school-age children, don’t expect them to be able to stay there when they grow up. For decades, rural Colorado’s biggest export has been its young people. Front Range cities and metro areas all over the country are filled with rural Coloradans who had to move away from rural Colorado to make a living. Relatively few young rural Coloradans can stay in rural Colorado. That leaves rural Colorado with an aging population, who—in many cases—are not especially willing to pay for public services—like schools—that support children. Nor are the in-migrating affluent middle-aged and older residents (whose grown children are elsewhere) especially likely to support such public services.
4. Rural Colorado’s economy continues—as much or so now than in the past—to rely on the exploitation, and often destruction, of the natural environment that is its biggest attraction. For decades, mining and logging were pilloried as destroyers of the environment. For the most part, modern protections have moderated or eliminated the environmental damage of those industries. Unfortunately, the modern “industry” of recreational real estate development, second-home building, and its related infrastructures (roads, etc.) have nearly as great a negative impact on the rural Colorado environment. Nor is recreational development the only threat. Energy development, which certainly has boosted the economy of rural Colorado, is not environmentally benign—even with the current extensive protections in place. It remains to be seen whether the nation’s increasingly desperate energy situation will increase pressure to relax environmental standards in rural Colorado. If past history is a guide, that is likely. Despite its sometimes bucolic appearance, rural Colorado faces grave environmental threats.
5. Rural Colorado is not a crime-free “Mayberry.” Many rural Colorado cities and towns have middling crime ratings, at best. While there are certainly some communities that are relatively safe—certainly so when compared to some major metropolitan areas—the fact is that rural Colorado has some significant crime issues. In most areas of rural Colorado, law enforcement is undermanned and underfunded. The salaries of law enforcement personnel in rural Colorado range from barely adequate to downright pathetic. Rural Colorado also has significant drug problems. Like most areas of the U.S., meth production, sale, and use is a problem in rural Colorado—some areas more so than others. Some rural Colorado towns also have a longstanding reputation for the production and trafficking in marijuana. Cocaine trafficking and use continues as a problem in some Colorado resort areas. These problems are not new. Rural Colorado’s drug problems date back nearly four decades in some locales. It’s another one of those “dirty little secrets” that the Chamber of Commerce folks usually neglect to mention. The rift between the “haves” and “have-nots” in rural Colorado is probably another contributor to crime—property crime in particular. In some areas, the spread between relatively rich residents and impoverished ones is stark. There are, sadly, a few who think of stealing as a form of "social justice."
6. Rural Colorado is (and will remain) a semi-arid place, while demands upon its water supplies—both within rural Colorado and from urban areas outside of it—continue to grow. Simply put, there are not going to be enough water supplies to fill the growing demands being placed upon those supplies. Probably the greatest threat to rural Colorado is the current and potential expropriation of its water resources by powerful metropolitan, industrial, and natural resource development interests—most of whom have little interest or concern for the well-being of rural Colorado, its local economy, and its resident population.
While some will undoubtedly criticize this post as “negative,” there are plenty of positive posts on this forum as a counterpoint to this one. What seems lacking sometimes on this forum is an injection of reality into what, for readers of this forum, is a most important decision: where to live. I think people need to see the whole picture.
I live and work in Denver, and I travel rural Colorado for my job. This is true of MOST urban versus rural areas in other states as well. We are an economy in which most jobs or business opps are in higher population areas. That said, if you are willing to adjust to a nonmaterial lifestyle, there are also a lot of happy, friendly, and intelligent folks out there in rural land. I came from Ohio in high school and the main diff I see between Colorado (I call it the wild west) is that people tend to act friendly at first, but are more than willing to leave you alone. That means, if you want a social life you have to go get it. In the midwest, and I think some other regions, people are a bit more sociable outside of the cities. Just depends what you want.
if you are willing to adjust to a nonmaterial lifestyle
But even those of us who aren't into "stuff" or status purchases still have some serious "nonmaterial" costs -- rent or mortgage (gotta have a roof over our heads when it snows), heating and other utilities, several kinds of insurance, gas, taxes (both obvious and hidden), food, etc -- all of which are rising a lot faster than wages, rural or urban. The entire culture is pushing everyone, including those poorer rural folks, to buy buy buy; and, IMHO, making it harder to be self-sufficient than it used to be.
Nobody is trying to pick a fick with you, onthemove, so cool off. Evergreen doesn't really count as "rural" Colorado-- it's more like the Denver exurbs. Yes, there's tons of people who commute from Evergreen to Denver every day, it's possible, (at least when there isn't a major blizzard or an accident closing off I-70), but that doesn't mean it's cheap, easy, or fun.
onthemove -- did you actually read the original post? Or did you just not comprehend it? I did not say you wouldn't succeed. I said (to paraphrase) that making a living here is harder, more complex and a lot more expensive that it use to be, and that something unexpected is going to catch with your pants down because you obviously don't know as much as you think you do. There's a painful difference between being cocky and confident, and based on your posts it's obvious that you will give life lots of opportunities to teach you the difference. I hope you're better at learning life lessons that you were at learning spelling, grammar and basic social skills (which, btw, will all count against you on many jobs)
That said, I sincerely hope you prove me wrong and do not end up as lonely and overwhelmed as you were when driving through the wide-open and empty spaces of the American heartland.
Last edited by Market Mama; 09-23-2007 at 06:40 AM..
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