Poll: Residents proud of Wood River Valley, but challenges loom | Blaine County

Access to the outdoors and community values ​​are major assets to living in the Wood River Valley, but some residents worry about their long-term quality of life, according to a 2022 survey by Visit Sun Valley In the region.

The resident survey, which probed a range of complex topics, was conducted in March and April 2022 by the marketing agency to better understand the opinions and priorities of area residents. An invitation to participate in the survey was mailed to a random sample of residents based on registered voter rolls, as well as to seasonal residents based on Blaine County Assessor records. The total number of surveys received to date is 1,433, of which 76% are year-round residents and 24% seasonal/part-time residents.

The survey revealed that residents are proud of the Wood River Valley as a place to live. Both full-time residents and seasonal residents voted overwhelmingly that they were likely to welcome visitors to their homes and recommend trips to the area to friends and family.

The survey assessed the quality of life experienced by residents, as 18 factors contributing to quality of life were probed. There was a strong consensus among Residents and Seasonal Residents on many of the most important factors in the ranking order, including:

  1. Access to outdoor activities and experiences
  2. Small town/sense of community
  3. Quality of recreation facilities and programs
  4. Local events and festivals
  5. Vibrant/high-energy community
  6. Arts/culture/entertainment

According to the findings, many of those citing “decline” are long-time local residents and landowners, especially those who have lived in the area for more than 20 years. This set of Valley residents is particularly likely to identify overcrowding, trail use and access as challenges. While this group citing declining quality of life is not a majority, it expresses widely shared views, Visit Sun Valley representatives told Blaine County commissioners at a regular meeting this week.

The survey also found that residents who are generally dependent on the local economy were more likely to say their quality of life is declining. When asked what were the biggest impact or challenges currently affecting respondents personally, service industry staffing and housing challenges were paramount. Housing availability and house prices were seen as a particularly big challenge for full-time residents. This theme of labor and staffing issues and housing affordability issues was also relatively common in open-ended survey responses.

Respondents also provided feedback on challenges that should receive more attention from local leaders. Water scarcity, available accommodation and overcrowding/overtourism were the most identified. While the tourism-based economy is generally supported and valued, a majority of respondents are also concerned about change.

Although overcrowding is an issue for many, opinions differ on whether respondents would be “willing to pay more tax for local services if it meant fewer visitors to the area”. These opinions are also shared by full-time residents and seasonal residents.

According to Visit Sun Valley, the results of this survey show that “future discussions and actions will require balancing shared values ​​and differences of opinion between the challenges of a visitor economy and the impacts that visitors and residents create”.