◆ The Elk Horn Arch serves as a landmark.
By Julie Dockstader Heaps SVI Media
“The small town everyone came from in their childhood.”
– Garrison Keillor
When Garrison Keillor penned those words, he must have been describing Afton. At least that seems the case to Town Administrator Violet Sanderson.
“Afton is the small town everyone came from in their childhood,” she told SVI Media recently.
Or, like Sanderson did, you make Afton — or any small enclave close by — your hometown.
“That’s the one thing about that hometown feeling,” she related. “It comes from everybody getting together and enjoying what we have.”
And “what we have” is a rich plethora of winter activities in Afton starting on the north end at Canyon View Park on the sledding hill and extending through the middle of town with the ice rink at Star View Park, then to the south to Valli Vu golf course for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. And anywhere you look throughout this “Star of all Valleys,” you’ll see snowmobile tracks, amidst other tracks — human and animal. Sanderson recently spoke with SVI Media to discuss myriad opportunities for winter fun and exercise inherent to Star Valley — especially under the auspices of the Town of Afton.
“We try to have those activities ready when [the kids] get out of school for Christmas break, to enjoy the natural assets [of the valley] and to bring people into town,” Sanderson said.
Now in her sixth year as town administrator, the transplant from Encampment, Wyoming, notes the importance of supporting the local economy and enjoying the resources paid for by tax dollars — including daily maintenance.
“We are afforded the opportunity to provide fun things,” Sanderson related. “We want people to feel welcome and enjoy the fruits of our labors, so to speak. Living in a small town in this climate is not easy. We have to move and manage snow on a daily basis in the winter.
“That takes work, but it also provides the opportunity to enjoy cross country skiing, skating, snowshoeing,” she said, adding that hard work by city workers offers a unique “quality of life” in Afton.
Sanderson explained that enjoying “the fruits” of winter activities includes respecting the resources and facilities for multi-use — even if you’re building a snowman adjacent the information center on Main Street on land shared with the county. “There’s a grassy area where people can come and build a snowman.”
But that respect, she continued, includes not driving a snowmobile across cross country tracks, using a hammer on the ice rink or driving where you’re not supposed to drive.
“What they don’t understand,” Sanderson explained, “is it’s tax dollars, even their own. We just ask that people respect the facilities so they’re available for everyone’s enjoyment.”
And that “enjoyment” is far-ranging. From official activities like youth winter sports registered through the Town of Af- ton for kids from 1st through 6th grade to individualized recreation, Star Valley has it all.
Just ask Jon Parsons of Rock Springs. The 56-year-old working temporarily in the valley was recently out for a run on a town-shoveled road adjacent to the golf course. Bundled for the cold, Parsons said he gets out “on pavement every chance I get.”
Once the fall weather hits, he related, “you get in as much running as you can.
You take advantage of the sunshine and try to brave the cold.”
Recreationists like Parsons would find it difficult if not impossible to run if not for maintaining roads as does the Town of Afton. Sanderson especially wanted to credit the Afton Parks and Maintenance Staff for grooming and maintaining the snow hill, the skating rink and cross-country trails. “They take pride in it,” Sanderson said.
In addition, she expressed gratitude for the Afton Tourism Board, which spon- sors the annual Parade of Lights on Main Street. “They are definitely part of the mag- ic we have going on here.”
And Sanderson’s personal payday? Each time in the past few years that the town has “lit the arch,” the world’s largest elkhorn arch on Main Street. “There was someone who proposed to his girlfriend [this year] under the arch,” she told SVI. “This Hallmark picturesque moment.”
Quoting Helen Keller, Sanderson said, “ ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’ That’s community. That’s the town of Afton.”