One of the things I enjoy about traveling is meeting locals and getting the inside scoop on how communities work. I wrote about this in an earlier blog about Moab, Utah.
Since I have small children, the locals I meet tend to also have small children and I chat with them at playgrounds or libraries. Today, Lee and I had a great conversation with some mothers at a park in Wilson, Wyo. not far from Jackson Hole. The tree-lined park was right by a horse ranch where we had seen cowboys practice roping a calf a few days before.
The women told me the area attracts the fabulously rich because Wyoming has no income tax. This situation has become so extreme lately that as one of the moms told me, “billionaires are pushing out millionaires.” This means every-day people have trouble finding places to live. According to one of the women, 500-square-foot homes are snapped up immediately by doctors because there is no place else available.
This also means that it’s hard to find workers because they have trouble finding a place to live. The local paper is full of pages of help wanted ads with no one to fill the work. Of course these jobs are of the $10-an-hour variety.
“This used to be such a cool hippie town 20 years ago,” one mom sighed as she watched her two young boys race around the park. “The rich people were here but you could live here too.” Can I tell you how much I hate hearing a town used to be a cool town 20 years ago? Where are the cool, affordable towns right now?
Earlier, I had visited Spirit Books, a great New Age bookstore basically around the corner. The shop had a selection of authors that included favorites like Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra and Shakti Gawain and shelves featuring Kaballah, meditation, yoga and natural health. Giving more of a clue of the tone of the area, the friendly owner told me about a good private school- Journeys School. I later checked out the web site and found out that K-5 annual tuition is $20,400 (!!!!) and grade 6-12 tuition is $20,900 (!!!!). My entire 4-year college degree at University of Oregon cost $4,000 23 years ago.
Jackson, Wyo. and the nearby Grand Tetons and Yellowstone national parks are breathtakingly beautiful but it definitely won’t be home for me and my family.