Opinion

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Uncommon Ground

Change or Make Way

It’s hard to plan for change, our vision clouded by the fog of opportunity

It’s the time of year when everything still seems possible. The ground is fresh and possibility exists all over the farm. It’s a bit overwhelming.

Maybe it’s because I’m older, maybe it was the long winter that used more firewood than many can recall, or maybe it’s just the cycle of life.

Soon possibility transforms into reality as we begin the process of turning ground and plant the seeds of 2019. It is a fresh season, full of promise. In ways it feels familiar. In ways it all feels new.

The sunshine has driven us from the farmhouse into the field where fruit trees needed pruning and leaf bags needed opening. We’ve been mulching leaves from the residents of Whitefish for decades. They cover bare ground, keeping sunlight from burning the soil and allowing worms to do their business.

Over the decades of working the farm, I’m amazed at how things have changed. The soil is blacker and the trees are mature. None of it has been easy.

We were just kids when we bought the land. Today, it feels like a lifetime of hard work has converted an open field into a place of community and possibility.

It’s taken many hands over the years to make it happen. Plenty of young people have come and gone. The stories linger and fresh tales are layered on top of old ones.

Only time separates us from our younger days. Time seems to keep on moving. It has no antithesis, which makes no sense. It feels familiar, common. Yet there are so many unknowns that weekly face the farm.

We’ve gone out to eat in downtown Whitefish several times this spring. We try to go downtown during the off-tourist season. It seems to be the only time town was not overcrowded, when one could walk into a restaurant and grab a bite to eat.

Something has changed. Town seems busy all the time. That’s great news for the establishments that are earning a living, paying high rent, and trying to keep the lights on. For the residents of town, it likely feels overwhelming.

The Flathead has been found. No amount of tourism promotion dollars will change the simple fact that this is a desirable place to visit and live. People are coming. In many ways they are here and it seems they never left.

The stark reality of living in a tourist town is how everything needs to be built to maximum capacity. The roads need to handle all the cars; the fire, police and emergency services need to have the capacity to tend to emerging crises.

The trails and parks aren’t just hammered by locals but by flocks of tourists that enjoy our way of life. The water wells need to be deeper, the sewer capacity needs to flush the hundreds of rooms sprawling about the valley.

Places will be closed off, full of use. Luckily locals know all this and are adapting. It still feels like a loss in time and opportunity past. We cannot go back. The challenge is before us like a turnip seed just sprouted, emerging from the cold ground.

There is plenty of money to be made from tourists. The businesses in town know this and are popping up all over to serve and take advantage. It’s not our town anymore, yet it is. It’s ours as long as locals are willing to fight for it. When locals stop caring, it’s over.

For us on the farm, life continues. It cycles back. It feels safe amongst the new growth. In ways I’ll ignore some problems of the farm another season, to leave them be. It’s hard to plan for change, our vision clouded by the fog of opportunity.