Growing Pains

Stacy Nick / KUNC

Steamboat Springs prides itself not only on its world-renowned ski slopes, but for its agricultural and ranching roots. But it hasn't always been able to hold on to that history.

At the Tread of the Pioneers Museum, curator Katie Adams walked through the latest exhibit.

"Steamboat Springs was founded in 1875 by the Crawford family and had really modest beginnings," Adams said.

Jackie Hai / KUNC

A house in Steamboat Springs is expensive. A single-family home can be anywhere from $600,000 to over $1 million — and for most low- and middle-income residents, that's just not in the budget.

Bob and Leslie Gumbrecht moved to Steamboat Springs nearly 15 years ago. But because of high home prices, they now live about 30 minutes down the road in Hayden.

Devin Borvansky
Matt Bloom / KUNC

Before the call came, Chuck Cerasoli had poured his second cup of black coffee, finished settling into a leather armchair and taken a few deep breaths. He made it to the start of a training on pain management for the staff of the Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, where he works as deputy fire chief for a sprawling area that includes one of the state's largest ski resorts. He even had a chance to eat his breakfast — a rare feat.

Then the ping of an alarm echoed through the firehouse's halls and into the living room where he sat. Cerasoli knew as soon as he heard the four high-pitched beeps: the first emergency of the day had arrived.

Steamboat Springs, like many of Colorado's high country resort communities, is grappling with how it wants to grow.

The city itself has more than doubled in population since 1990. Seasonal tourist booms formerly contained to summer and winter have bled over into spring and fall. With its increasingly sought after outdoor amenities, like hot springs, camping, hiking, mountain biking and skiing, the town swells with visitors most weekends out of the year.

Light rail
Matt Bloom / KUNC

Traffic jams. Construction cranes. The rising cost of living. All unpleasant, but familiar parts of life in Colorado.

These growing pains are weighing on communities all along the Front Range, including the Denver suburb of Lakewood, where residents are deciding whether to put a new cap on growth.

Chrisnel Akele
Stephanie Daniel / KUNC

Chrisnel Akele's house in Fort Morgan, Colorado is undergoing minor renovations. His parents are in the process of converting the garage into a family room, but Akele has already added his own personal touch.

Hanging on one of the walls are two, big varsity sports posters. In one, Akele is wearing a black wrestling jacket. In the other, he's in a red and white soccer uniform.

Esther Honig

In the far northeastern corner of Colorado sits the small town of Julesburg. Surrounded by fields of corn and wheat, farming is the predominant occupation here, and has been for much of the town’s history.

In 1930, Sedgwick County hit its peak population of over 5,580. This was a time when farming required extra hands. But in the decades since, residents, mainly young people, have left for jobs and opportunity elsewhere.

Esther Honig

Out on Colorado’s Eastern Plains, the sound of hammers and saw blades cuts through the steady silence. A construction site hums next to a solitary cluster of nearly 150 newly built homes and 48 apartment units.

In the small town of Wiggins, where a pair of grain silos are the tallest structures for miles, the population of less than 900 hadn’t grown in over a decade. But with this new development, the town’s on track to double in size by the middle of 2020.

For Sale
Matt Bloom / KUNC

When Hailee Bergstrom and her husband set out to buy their first home earlier this year, they set a budget of around $300,000. The two were renting and working in Greeley and looking to stay nearby. But the couple realized something pretty fast.

"There was no selection between what we could afford and ... I don't know," Bergstrom said, trailing off.

The couple looked at two places in Greeley. Both felt too cramped or unsafe. When they didn't find anything else in their price range, they looked south to a new development in the neighboring community of Evans.

Matt Bloom / KUNC

Zee Ziola remembers the sounds he used to hear on mountain bike rides through Maxwell Natural Area. On fall Saturdays, the boom of a cannon signaled the start of another home game at Hughes Stadium. Fans erupting in cheers marked a Rams touchdown.

"This side of town would get crazy packed," Ziola said, standing at the edge of the old Hughes site in Fort Collins.

Now the 161-acre property is vacant, serving as the future home of a new neighborhood.