Up and Down El Rio Blanco: No Secrets

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Maybe 15 or 20 years ago, I remember a brochure distributed by the Meeker Chamber of Commerce with the tag line “Colorado’s Best Kept Secret.”
Unfortunately (or some might argue fortunately), try as we might to get the word out, Meeker still might be Colorado’s best kept secret.
Last week at the monthly chamber of commerce board meeting, president Margie Joy shared a copy of the May 2011, edition of Outdoor Life magazine listing their top 200 towns for sportsmen.
Not knowing the criteria, nor having read the article, I thought Meeker could easily make the top 50.
So, where do you think we rank?
Shhhh … it’s a secret.
According to the magazine’s ranking criteria, 40 percent was given to socio-economic categories, rewarding towns with low unemployment rates, high household income, a low cost of living (the national average COL index rating is 100) and schools. Data from websites www.city-data.com and www.great-schools.org was used to measure each town’s quality of life score.
The other 60 percent of a town’s score was based on the “outdoors” score, judging each town for its gun-friendliness, fishable species, huntable species, proximity to public land and water and trophy potential.
After reading the criteria, I still felt pretty confident Meeker could make the list. A top 50 ranking would make me smile, I thought with pride.
Bend, Ore., earned the top spot for sportsmen in the nation. Ranking statistics for the northwestern town with a population of approximately 80,000 listed Bend’s median household income at $53,177, its median home value at $287,000, COL 99.9, mean commute time 15.4 minutes and unemployment at 4.3. Very respectable stats.
I started looking for Meeker and or Rangely.
Granby was the first Colorado town on the list, ranked at 24, and Carbondale came in at 36, Colorado Springs was 41, Rifle 46, Trinidad 51, Montrose 59, Hayden 74, Craig 77, and Durango barely made the top 100.
No Meeker or Rangely in the top 100. To end your suspense, neither Meeker nor Rangely made the top 200. Grand Junction was ranked at 127 and Gunnison was the only other Colorado town listed in the top 200, ranked at 134.
The news bummed me up out, kind of like the weather has lately. I thought we might be a little low in the socio-economic categories but our outdoors score, in my opinion would surely make up for it.
I went to the city-data website to get Meeker and Rangely’s stats to compare them to Bend, Ore., (data from 2009):

Income    Home value    COL     Commute    Unemployment
Meeker    $51,514    $194,933    91.4    15.9 minutes    7.4 (6.3 in 2011)
Rangely    $58,744    $128,703    90.2    13.9 minutes    7.4 (7.0 in 2011)

I think when you’re not in the top 200, you just try harder.
The sun will come up tomorrow, hopefully, so I’m not going to let this get me down too much. Although I personally do not hunt (elk steaks are my favorite) and I haven’t fished in a long time, my brothers and many of my friends are big into both and I still consider myself a sportsman. Rio Blanco County is a great place to live if you are a sportsman and I don’t think we should keep it a secret anymore.