Wyoming, Jackson, & Grand Teton National Park
We crossed over into Wyoming - our third state! - on September 4. We followed the Southern route through Alpine toward Jackson from Idaho Falls, ID, which was twenty miles longer but didn’t take us over the steep grades of the western pass. It was exciting to observe Alpine’s recent economic growth, and the run along the winding Snake River was at times chilly but always beautiful. After fourteen straight days of running four- to eight-hours, we were excited to rest our legs and meet with people in Jackson. The Fife family generously put us up in their beautiful cottage north of Jackson for the weekend.
On Saturday morning we joined the Jackson Hole community for Old Bill’s Fun Run. Established in the early 1990’s, the anonymous Mr. and Ms. Old Bill annually challenge corporate and individual donors to raise money for hundreds of area nonprofits (to date, over $100 million has been raised through this event). We joined kids, adults and dogs who ran, walked and trotted 5k or 10k; since it was a rest day, we walked 5k. We also visited booths staffed by these community organizations whose missions range from search and rescue, wildlife and land conservation, social services, education, military and veteran services, arts, and much more. This was a clear sign of a healthy and happy community.
The next morning we sat down for breakfast with Jackson Mayor Mark Barron. With the experience of six terms, Mayor Barron was a wealth of knowledge on the town. He spoke in depth about the conservation and energy investments the town has championed following a 2006 energy audit and challenge from World Bank President James Wolfensohn. Barron’s strategy has been to “give people the choice” by empowering individuals to change and make a difference in their community. In the years since, Jackson set up the 10x10 (10% reduction by 2010) and 40x20 (40% by 2020) plans and strives to become the most energy efficient city in the country to mirror the rich natural resources that surround the town.
The following day we met with Jackson Police Department Lieutenant Cole Nethercott. Mr. Nethercott explained the department’s underlying motto of “do the right thing for the right reason.” Jackson is a unique community in that it is home to 10,000 citizens but serves at times 60,000 people during tourist-heavy seasons. The department works closely with the county police and various federal law enforcement bodies to manage a commuter and tourist population “five to eight times” what they have the resources to manage. However, the town employs school resource officers and a drug drop box program like we have seen in other communities.
As you can imagine, in a community surrounded by so many fantastic natural resources, land use planning is a huge issue in Jackson. At the Jackson planning department we met with Senior Planner Lindsay Kissel and Principal Planner Paul Anthony. Jackson is a unique town to plan for as large acre houses are often more valuable then many smaller lots, the town sits as an island surrounded by federal lands, and in a rare show of bipartisanship, conservatives and liberals come together on environmental and conservation issues. Jackson incorporates a rare natural resources overlay map into town plans, which charts migration corridors, nesting habitats, vegetation and more. There is also an optional 1% sales tax that businesses can employ to raise funds for Teton conservation efforts led by Patagonia.
While in town we cheered the Ducks to a win over Michigan State and enjoyed a hootenanny in Teton National Park. Jackson was wonderful break for us but we are excited to continue our longer runs as we work our way east.