Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tourism; Vermont A Victim Of It's Own Success

Over a half century ago the rise of ski areas and the recreational industry appeared to be a golden goose on the horizon of Vermont's future. A way to bring increased revenue to the state in the form of leases, and necessary tax dollars. So in addition to making state forests, we offered up Vermont's abandoned uphill farms as second homes for affluent out of staters.

Today it's the silver bullet that is bringing down the Green Mountain State. As more people discovered they like the seclusion, these second homes became year-round estates. Then they began to spread from uphills, to lowlands, to lakesides and riversides. It seems everyone wants a piece of Vermont's unspoiled environment. Problem was instead of developing sustainable jobs, we were content to deal with seasonal fluxes of employment. Over time this has had a devastating effect on Vermont's economy.

It's curious that land is now more valuable for developing houses than for growing crops. We've got places to put up homes, but have to import our food from all over the globe. Vermont loses its youth to other states because it's a competitive job market, one that wants experience. Something you can't get if no one hires you. We wonder why the Vermont of today is so very different from that of yesteryear.

Today very few of the kids growing up and being educated in Vermont schools can expect to live out their lives in the Green Mountains. Vermont also has an unstable age structure, with more and more of it's population aging and on fixed incomes. We have bypassed the day when we just can keep raising taxes and expect problems to work themselves out. The two things we need most now are heart and foresight in Vermont's government.

Planning for the future is no easy task, but the time is now for action. Vermonters shouldn't be punished for their families not having bought enough land in the past for future generations to settle on. It shouldn't be an us versus them with newcomers. There must be an equitable way to ensure Vermonts future, one that is fair to all those who wish to call the Green Mountain State home.

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