Frisco talks art, lifestyle and fostering a ‘neighborhood’ during latest visioning session
Frisco officials held a second discussion with the Insights Collective earlier this month, moving closer to developing firm ideas for their vision of the town’s future five years down the road and beyond.
The Insights Collective, a recently formed think tank comprising tourism industry experts, returned for a special council meeting Feb. 11 to lead town officials through a widespread conversation regarding their goals for the town. While the town already has guiding documents in place — such as strategic and community plans — the discussion was meant to help eschew overused platitudes like “quirky” and “dynamic,” overlook specific project ideas and focus more specifically on big-picture ways to improve quality of life in Frisco.
During the first meeting with the Insights Collective on Jan. 26, Frisco officials voiced a strong desire to retain community character coming out of the pandemic and focused the conversation on housing and socioeconomic diversity in town. The discussion this month picked back up on the cultural elements involved in creating a unique character for Frisco outside of the greater framework of Summit County or other mountain communities.
The collective presented three “scenarios” that would help Frisco define how it wants to be seen in five years. Scenario 1, what the collective called the “Ad Hoc Evolution,” was defined by the group as Frisco’s current direction, characterized as a community guided by approved community and strategic plans but lacking any clearly established vision. Scenario 2 included the execution of those plans, but in a way that is guided by a broader vision for the future. Scenario 3 involved taking advantage of the area’s strong recreational foundation, and making investments into cultural markers to create a more distinctive sense of place in Frisco.
“Fundamentally, we’re asking the question, what does Frisco want to be known for in five years?” said Chris Cares, managing director of RRC Associates and member of the collective. “If you had to explain to somebody what this place is, and to do it in terms of what you want to be famous for in five years, how would you describe that in light of the discussion we’ve been having?”
In creating their own Frisco-specific scenario, Frisco Town Council members called for some combination of Scenarios 2 and 3 and said focusing more on cultivating a “neighborhood” feel was important. In defining the town’s character, Mayor Hunter Mortensen said he envisioned a town wherein community members would know and take care of one another.
Town Council members also emphasized the importance of connecting the town with the numerous outdoor activities available to residents and visitors and embracing the mountain lifestyle in a way that goes beyond just recreation to help shape the town’s culture.
“I strongly believe that by calling our outdoor pursuits ‘recreation’ you’re disrespecting it,” council member Rick Ihnken said, referring to the use of the word in general. “I believe that we chose to live here for the lifestyle it offers, and by using the word, ‘It’s just recreation,’ is insulting to folks who rose their family here within these programs, within these mountains doing the activities that we can do. That’s why you live here. That’s what I hear this entire group heading toward.”
The council also discussed how potential changes to events could help the town focus more on locals and explore different cultural perspectives within the community to reach out to residents from different backgrounds. Members also pointed to art installations as a good way to help connect the community and set Frisco apart from other towns in Summit.
“For me, the recreational piece is on the periphery — literally geographically speaking,” council member Jessie Burley said. “Because of that, it becomes a challenge in maintaining that neighborhood feel. … I see a lot of opportunity on the cultural side … particularly through the art scene to also enhance that neighborhood feel. … How can we start to use art and disperse it across town to kind of bring in those neighborhoods that are underutilized?”
Council members voiced that they didn’t want the town to be a victim of its own success in creating amenities that would flood the area with tourists and said the town’s elected officials would have to look at policy decisions through a lens of what’s best for residents in balancing the outdoor lifestyle and cultural investments to maintain a neighborhood feel.
“I think we’re seeing an opportunity to move away from things that were contrived to project an image to people to create some interest in us,” council member Dan Fallon said. “… Speaking for the community — knowing that whatever we deliver for ourselves in terms of the caliber of the experience, the breadth of the experience, and how it engages us both naturally and as it transitions back to our built environment and our commercial centers — we know that experience is going to resonate with other people.
“What we’ve found, and what we’ve experienced in the last year at least, is those people are here in droves. … We’ve already started to create this lens by which we really filter what we want based on our personal experience, and we’re worried a lot less about what does this mean to our tourist cohort … because we’re not building this to sell to somebody. We’re building it to deliver community value.”
The Insights Collective will take the council’s comments and return at a later meeting to continue the discussion.
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