Chaffee County Community Checkup: “Taking The Pulse Of Our Community 2018 Survey Report”

Setup of some of the 450 tables that stretched the length of the Buena Visa Main Street for the Sept. 24 BV Strong dinner.  (File photo)

The results are in. The Chaffee County survey conducted in late November 2018, has produced some varied opinions in tracking satisfaction with the quality of life in the community. Overall community and connections came through strongly, as did some apprehension of what the future may hold as growth continues.

The Envision Chaffee County initiative that began in 2017 revealed that “Sense of Community” was identified as one of the most important qualities residents value. While that initiative involved more than 1,500 residents in planning for the future, it did not include a majority of county residents.

The most recent survey identified four essential ‘visions’ for the future, including that the community remains friendly, engaged and culturally connected.

The Community Check-up tracked the level of satisfaction with survey questions that will be repeated every two or three years. In taking the pulse of the community, the survey was offered online from mid-September to the end of November 2018. A total of 848 people (799 Chaffee County residents and 49 visitors) responded.

Questions pertained to three areas:

  1. The overall quality of life (level of satisfaction, satisfaction with the direction of change, and what things are most important in maintaining “community”
  2. The level of connectedness among people (e.g. volunteering, participating in social and community organizations and events, knowing your neighbors and people you see in town, etc.)
  3. The demographic characteristics (such as length and location of residence in the county, age, gender, education level, children living with you, etc.) that define subgroups that might have different opinions on the first two topics.

Report authors Irv Broudy and Rick Hum, working with the Chaffee County Community Foundation, reported varying levels of satisfaction indicated in the report summary:

Cattle drive (Photo by Sandy Hobbs)

Key Findings

  1. Chaffee County residents are very engaged in their community. Almost 85 percent is a member of one or more community organizations. About 60 percent participate in one or more informal social groups. About 95 percent currently volunteer or have volunteered in the past.
  2. Chaffee County residents are connected to their neighbors and feel recognized as members of the community. They know their neighbors (99 percent know one or more neighbor) they see people they know when in town (98 percent said often or occasionally); they are recognized as locals when they shop (92 percent said often or occasionally) and they attend community events (98 percent said often or occasionally).
  3. Overall satisfaction is generally very high. More than 70 percent of people said they were either “very satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with our current quality of life and fewer than 7 percent were either not very satisfied or not at all satisfied.
  4. However, there is significant apprehension about the future among some residents. About a quarter expressed strong concern about the changes they see occurring in the community. However, three-quarters were at least “somewhat satisfied” about the changes they see coming.
  5. Satisfaction about changes happening in the community largely depends on people believing that:
    – They have a voice in what happens in the community, can reach out to community leaders to express their concerns and believe they will be considered fairly.
    – Newcomers add to the richness and vitality of the community and are not trying to change it in ways that will decrease the qualities they cherish.
    – They are connected to their neighbors and to the community and recognized as individuals who are valued.
  6. Satisfaction is lowest among people who grew up in Chaffee County. They are particularly concerned about the changes they see coming and are more likely to be wary of newcomers. Compared to the total group, people who grew up here are about three times (26 percent vs. 8 percent) more likely to be concerned about changes coming and more than twice are more likely to believe that newcomers are trying to change the community (50 percent vs. 20 percent).

Implications for possible actions

According to Hum, the hope is that the survey results are informative to the community and that various groups and government organizations can act to continue to build on the positive sense of community and satisfaction with the quality of life.

In particular, some possible actions that the survey results suggest worth considering are finding additional ways to help:

  • Ensure that all people in the community, especially those who grew up here, feel they have an easy way to express their concerns to community leaders and that their input is valued.
  • Integrate newcomers, including part-timers, into the community and connect them in meaningful ways to those who grew up here and to other long-term residents: e.g., block and HOA parties and events that honor the history and traditions of the community; events that bring people together from all segments of the community to talk and meet each other in a shared informal activity such as the annual Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, the County Fair, the Rodeo and the “BV Strong” dinner.
  • Make an effort to connect people, especially newcomers, part-timers and “old-timers,” to opportunities to join and volunteer in the many non-profit service organizations, clubs, fraternal, faith-based and other organizations that play such a vital role in making ours a great community.

According to the report’s authors Broudy and Hum, the Chaffee County Community Foundation have a program to achieve this in its future plans.