It’s time to consider a new home for the Jackson Hole Rodeo and Teton County Fairgrounds.
The decades-old tension between balancing open space and workforce housing requires that we put density in already developed clusters on the 3% of Teton County land that’s private. That puts homes near jobs and services, reducing traffic and preserving rural character in rural areas of the valley. It’s spelled out in the Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan.
The fairgrounds occupies 12.35 acres of prime downtown real estate that the town can no longer afford to keep relatively vacant. At the 45 homes per acre apartment density that town planners proposed for the embattled 440 W. Kelly parcel, the rodeo grounds could hold 555 units. If that’s too much density, planners can work to find the right number of dwellings with plenty of open space.
In the aftermath of the town and county shooting down Larry Huhn’s workforce housing plan — they wisely agreed to reconsider — it seems now is the perfect time to make a plan for how town-owned land can be aligned with town goals.
None of this should be construed to mean the value of the Teton County Fair or the Jackson Hole Rodeo is diminished. Read more about the valley’s rodeo traditions in Roundup, the souvenir rodeo program inserted in today’s edition.
However, the fairgrounds and rodeo are better suited to a more rural setting. Removing the horse and stock trailer traffic from rush hour might incrementally aid downtown congestion.
If Hog Island is a better place to hold agricultural events, there’s already a five-lane highway leading there. Transit service could easily be expanded to drop visitors and pick them up. If Spring Gulch or the West Bank is the chosen site, the move could be timed with WYDOT’s revamping of the Highway 22 corridor. Again, transit would be crucial.
An indoor arena, outdoor arena, administrative space and parking could easily fit on a 12- or 15-acre parcel in the county. A community 4-H barn like the one south of Pinedale could be incorporated, offering more children a chance to stick close to their Western roots.
To make it happen, new land needs to be identified outside town limits, zoning needs to be amended, funding must be obtained — specific purpose excise tax? — and politicians have to vote decisively on the matter.