December 27, 2017 at 8:57 am #231661
I just finished a fascinating long read about the impact MTB tourism is having on the small town of Derby, Tasmania (Australia.)
Here’s the tldr; version: the town of Derby is tiny. It’s an old mining town that at its peak had 3,000 residents, but in more recent times the population dwindled to less than 200. The folks who live there mostly work in forestry and farming. Several years ago, there was a big grant to build MTB trails, and they ended up building some really great stuff. The Enduro World Series made a stop there this year, and it was voted the best course on the circuit. Tourism is booming, with 30,000 visitors to Derby in 2017. New restaurants and bars are opening up, and there are new hotels too.
As a result of this boom, real estate prices have almost doubled in recent years, potentially making it difficult for some longtime residents to stay as rents rise. (Some who owned property have already cashed out and moved on.) Not only that, many mountain bikers are opposing area logging operations that employ longtime residents because they’re worried about how it will affect the trails and the scenery.
Here in Atlanta we hear about the ill effects of gentrification on in-town neighborhoods, but I guess I never considered mountain town gentrification, if that’s even a thing. I mean, as mountain bikers, we tend to pat ourselves on the back for “saving” dying towns that once relied on natural resource extraction. But clearly this shift can adversely affect some long time residents’ lives…December 27, 2017 at 10:08 am #231690
This is a constant discussion in Salida. I guess the big difference with Derby is that the cause/effect of mountain bike development is crystal clear there. In other mountain towns, like Salida, there are many factors contributing to the boom–mountain biking is just one of many.
Some friends claim that they’ve seen a house here in town gain $100,000 in sale price in the past two years alone. While that seems excessive, the explosion even since I moved here 4.5yrs ago is very real. While some of the benefits are great, there is a whole host of issues that arise at the same time.December 27, 2017 at 1:20 pm #231726
There’s just too many people and too many ways to communicate for a place to be a secret anymore. This is a problem that’s happening in mountain towns everywhere. Bend, OR, is another good example. Tons of California transplants moved there because of the outdoor recreation opportunities and the lower cost of living compared to CA. But now home prices have skyrocketed.
Same thing is happening in Squamish, BC, and even here on the East Coast in places like Asheville, NC.December 27, 2017 at 4:35 pm #231730
Oh, yeah, mountain town “gentrification” is real. It’s happened in almost every ski town in Colorado. Suddenly, a lifetime resident sees his property taxes rise to the point they’re higher than his mortgage! Then he can’t afford to live there anymore and ultimately the “real” people that built the paradise in the first place can’t afford to stay and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
With regard specifically to mountain biking, the effect is pretty diffuse most of the time now. It used to be just Moab, then add Fruita, then add Sedona, but then it’s also Downieville, Bend, Prescott, St George, and literally dozens of others, to the point that no one place is getting major change just from mountain biking. However, most of these places are about so much more than just mountain biking. Mountains are just plain fun for a whole lot of things: skiing, cycling, climbing, rafting, 4-wheeling, hunting, fishing, backpacking, etc. So even as the cyclists become more dispersed, they are joined by all manner of outdoor enthusiasts thus reamplifying the effect.
There are no easy answers and each community ends up with it’s own unique set of struggles. Some manage better than others.December 28, 2017 at 9:46 am #231784
Grand Junction is starting to get pretty popular as well.December 31, 2017 at 1:05 pm #231863
It’s a good question, but also a catch 22.
When you consider Derby – based on your description – its a bit of a “dying” town (significant population decrease, presumably property value reductions, and more). As a “MTB Destination”, there’s a surge into the local economy – which bolsters local income, employment, and property values. But if that “surge” is not anticipated/managed, it can quickly out-pace what the residents can afford.
This is true in many locations that rely on “tourism” for the economy. For example, South Lake Tahoe (or most any other ski-town) – where most jobs pay near minimum wage and those jobs are “seasonal’ (fortunately Lake Tahoe has both a summer and winter season). However, rent and mortgages have far exceeded what the “locals” can afford. When you add in the VRBO/AirBnB owners, most of the “locals” can no longer afford to live there. The sense of “community” becomes reflective a “short-term/transient” community.
Not an easy equation to balance.December 31, 2017 at 4:31 pm #231873
Not for retirement, but Mongolia sure has been my little “secret” mountain biking destination to live in. AWESOME pristine nature, unexplored and undocumented trails, high speed riding, physical challenge, great wildlife, and a horizon of riding opportunities and adventure far beyond me.March 8, 2018 at 1:56 pm #236274
I think it is fair to say that yes mountain biking is improving small mountain towns, however, in Idaho it is a total change of demographics as well. People are just moving to smaller western towns. We have a mass influx of people from all over the United States that are bringing more toys then ever and have money. I don’t know where they are giving money away at but I need to find out. I lived in a bombed out logging town in central Idaho and now the price of real estate has gotten stupid. With no employment base and the mass influx of people bring their toys, they have no problem dropping $300k for a cabin. The small town I was in still wants to argue that they need to bring logging and mining back, but do not see the price of real estate and the summers busy 7 days a week as a positive. They still do not think of RECREATION as a viable industry, even though it is a billion dollar a year bone for Idaho economy. The infrastructure for logging here is gone and the people in the small towns that want it back need to move forward and realize they need to welcome Subaru’s and the folks driving $80k pickups pulling their $80k Nitro Toy haulers. Look at the last study that just came out from the Department of Commerce. Recreation surpassed the national GDP. Whats that tell you.March 8, 2018 at 8:09 pm #236280
Overall I think it is pretty sad.March 11, 2018 at 6:39 am #236316
I can remember in the mid 1980’s the Bend Chamber of Commerce (or some other growth board) took out a full page ad in the San Diego Union- Tribune extolling the virtues of the area. Including more days of sunshine per year than San Diego. I thought it was a horrible idea, but I guess they got what they wished for. Killed the goose that laid the golden eggs though.March 11, 2018 at 2:04 pm #236318
If you really want to nerd-out on the topic, I attached some data from MSU. https://msu.edu/course/prr/840/econimpact/multipliers.htm, What is interesting is that they look at the # of jobs per $MM in sales and not the average wage of those jobs associated with sales. BUT if you divide the total income by the number of jobs created, you can see that some of the top 3 “job creators” create the lowest paying jobs by a big margin. It’s OK, but residents should understand what it is they are creating when a region develops this way.
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