Zone, Zone On The Range

Bringing Smart Growth to Wyoming

Story by Nathan C. Martin

Photography by Akasha Rabut

Published on Jul 2, 2012

With its boomtown spurts of unplanned growth, roughneck culture and cowboy-esque commitment to individual property rights, the city of Rock Springs, Wyo., population 23,036, doesn’t seem like the most ideal venue for implementing a smart-growth vision of density and sustainability. Hell, ways of life that Texas politicians fake for television still exist in Wyoming, the nation’s least populous state, to a significant extent. But for Jana McCarron, Rock Springs’ city planner, deep-seated individualism isn’t an insurmountable obstacle. This summer, after months of public input in the form of meetings and surveys, the California-bred McCarron hopes to unveil a master plan to replace the city’s current one, which has remained substantially unchanged for 30 years. Writer Nathan Martin takes a look at how efforts to curb sprawl in Rock Springs have fared in the past, and how McCarron — who doesn’t work inside the bubble that envelops many smart-growth advocates — will do things differently. Also, an examination of recent nationwide opposition to sustainable development, and how nonetheless it just might work in a place where California, New Mexico and Arizona seem dense by comparison.

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