Ah, the end of the last big weekend of the summer and a collective sigh of relief falls over the hamlets of Pine-Strawberry as parking lots empty and it doesn’t take 10 minutes to make a left turn onto Highway 87.
Many are thankful. If not for our guests, the economy struggles. Many business owners, while exhausted, are thrilled at the large numbers of folks strolling the streets this past weekend. They bought trinkets, gifts, ice cream and meals. They donated to our local charities and took part in our raffles. They tipped the wait staff.
But as we “locals” congregate at the post office, the market and even the local tavern, I hear the complaints.
“They let their kids drive 50 miles per hour down our dirt roads,” one friend and full-time resident tells me. I’ll keep everyone anonymous for good reason, and I have heard these complaints before.
“They drove right into our yard to sightsee, past the private property sign,” says another.
“They just let their dogs loose — don’t they know it’s dangerous?”
“I know of some who started a campfire.” — The fire department responded and put it out.
If you have lived here full time, you understand. I’d like to offer some ideas.
There are those who primarily live in the Valley and come to the Rim Country for cooler weather, relaxation, recreation and fun. We love these folks. Many own a second home in our community. They take the time to get to know those of us who live here. We are excited to see them return and sad to see them leave.
Then there are those that act as if there is no one else in the world but them. These are the source of the grumbles.
Small towns are no less free of rules, and in fact can have more than visitors realize. Our goal should be to educate and perhaps transform visitors.
I remember first visiting these tiny towns back in the early ’90s. I was not a full-time resident and for most of you reading this you have a similar story of falling in love with the cool mountain breezes, the quaintness of community living and the breathtaking views. There was that one special quality that made you decide to live here full time.
Were the “locals” good to you? Do remember that first real local you got to know and how welcome they made you feel? We can do that for the next local in line.
Get to know your occasional neighbors. Say hi! Let them know how worried we are about fire, that dogs can and will get injured by the wildlife, and that yes, even here speed limits and traffic rules are a thing. Remind them that sightseeing is great, but stay on major roads, and off private drives.
One Airbnb I know has a small thin binder with the general rules about town, including fire restrictions, if the forest is closed and where the best place is to take off-road vehicles.
If you are an occasional guest, you can educate your group, and encourage them to remember our businesses are small, all the staff you see may be all they have, and patience is free.
Being the last person to a great place is a lovely wish, but it’s unattainable. We need our visitors. They keep the lights on for many hardworking people.
Visitors, we want you to come. We understand the magic of the Mogollon Rim and the desire to run wild after living in a concrete jungle. Please do so with respect for the people and the mountain, they will both reward you.