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MEEKER — Why did you move here? The second most-asked question of newcomers is no longer overheard much in front of the post office. With all of the new faces in town, the assumption that the low unemployment rate has something to do with the influx is usually correct. While there still seem to be plenty of retirees choosing the White River Valley for their slow-down stage of life, the small-town atmosphere for raising a family remains appealing for many.
Moving back to be closer to family is another reason cited for a surprising number of newcomer/old-comers. If jobs connected to the oil and gas industry, including construction were not available, this might not be the case. The family-run ranches and farms are still an important part of the economic health of the valley but quite a few of the original homesteads and acreage has been sold to big corporations, so extended family members seek employment off of the ranch.
“It was a fluke,” was my answer to that unavoidable question in my early years here, although my husband and I followed a job offer. Somehow it came across as an insult, as it directly contradicted the view held forth by the Meeker Herald masthead, “Tis A Privelege To Live Here.” I didn’t say it to offend longtime residents, I simply had no idea that Meeker existed. It didn’t take me long to realize that the quality of life offered in the White River Valley fit our plan to take advantage of all of the outdoor activities, such as backpacking and cross-country skiing, while raising children. We weren’t looking for a lifestyle, just a life. Cowboy culture, amenity culture, working-class culture — we didn’t feel it mattered.
Recent reports on the expected oil and gas boom express a concern about the effect unbridled drilling will have on the amenity culture that moved into so many of our neighbors to the south of us (Rifle, Parachute and Glenwood) after the bust in the 1980s. Meeker has been on the fringe of the biggest impact and the main amenities of our community cited by newcomers are friendly folks, small-town atmosphere and a variety of outdoor activities. While second homes and seasonal residents have been part of the Upper White River Valley scenery for many years, a balance has been maintained.
The expression heard often, “The Meeker Way,” has both negative and positive connotations, but in the case of maintaining a high quality of life, along with the preferred “small-town” atmosphere, preserving some of the best local traditions is essential. One native daughter expressed her sureness that once the dust of change and growth settles, “Our town will still be filled with people who choose to be here.”