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.
- Learn about the best practices for implementing smart-growth policies in an inhospitable political climate.
- Read about a quiet retrofitting of the frontier.
- Explore the role of urbanism in cities that, to untrained eyes, look more like the country.