Welcome, COVID Refugees! A Newcomers’ Guide to Jackson Hole

There are currently more than 130 properties under contract in Teton County worth more than $1,000,000.

The demand to live here pre-pandemic was ravenous. Today, as those of means move to Teton County to escape the ravages of life during COVID, it’s insatiable.

I’m deeply concerned about the implications of this new reality for our quality of life and the long-term resiliency of our community.

What will the influx of people moving here to get their children into schools and flee the urban lockdowns that deprive them of the open air we take for granted mean for our value system?

Let’s face it: the dynamics that allows this community to preserve the balance between the built and natural environments are not second nature to citizens of California, Texas or Florida, from which many of the COVID refugees are escaping.

We need to be proactive. We need to create “A Newcomer’s Guide to Jackson Hole”—a joint website and hard copy that can be personally handed to the new residents upon the closing of their properties.

We can invite our realtor friends and neighbors, who are currently managing these multi-million dollar transactions, to help underwrite and deliver it.

And we can invite our colleagues in the non-profit and governmental sectors to contribute chapters that will help us maintain the equilibrium so important to the longterm viability of this community.

Some of the chapters might include local insights, such as: Do yourself a favor and buy an old Ford F-150 (you can afford it), a pair of wranglers and some cowboy boots and head over to hear Bill yodel at the Coach while he’s still got a few years left. You’ll be glad you did. 

Another tip for new arrivals: when someone asks you what you do, they’re not referring to your adventures in Silicon Valley. They’re politely asking what you like to do outside. 

Humor aside, it’s important to convey to our new arrivals the importance of giving back. Teton County functions best when its residents take an active role in protecting both the human and natural ecosystem. 

Our local outdoor recreation organizations, for example, could contribute to a chapter on some of the do’s and don’ts for climbing (WAG bags at the crags, please, and keep your dogs on a leash or better yet at home), mountain biking (electric bikes have a place. It’s not the trails of the BTNF) or powder runs on the Pass (keep it tight when parking, don’t be a Passhole and please, please, please don’t drop in on Twin or Shovel during a storm cycle, kick off a slab and get it closed for all of us).

Weed and Pest could add a chapter: Know your invasives, wash that ATV and please don’t feed the wildlife. 

Obvious, right? Not if your idea of outside is a Dallas spray playground.

We want our new neighbors to be active members of the community. Toward that end, we could help guide them to nonprofts that represent an interest or passion they can get behind (there are more than 200 to choose from) and encourage them to volunteer, join a board, or donate through Old Bill’s.

Let’s invite some of those same nonprofits to write chapters for the guide. Organizations such as the Community Safety Network, Hole Food Rescue and Habitat for Humanity could offer multiple insights on ways to help our community thrive.

The point is, living here is a privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility. 

And living here responsibly, for some of our new arrivals, will not be intuitive. 

Let’s welcome our new neighbors with a newcomer’s guide that helps them understand that they, too, are now part of the solution.

As Jackson wildlife biologist Olaus Murie used to say, “It’s going to take all of us to do it.”

If you agree, please vote for me for Teton County Commission on November 3. Learn more about my candidacy and my positions at www.christianbeckwith.com.

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@ 2020 Christian Beckwith for Teton County Commissioner.