Summer is here … smile

With the passing of the Memorial Day holiday, a tourist destination like Pagosa Country enters the summer season — the biggest season of the year. This year, that season is heralded on two consecutive weekends by events that have become the hallmark of early summer: the Pagosa Fiber Festival and the Pagosa Folk ’N Bluegrass Festival. The fiber fest takes place this week, with workshops beginning today and the major events at Town Park and the community center getting underway Saturday. Next week, the music starts on Friday in Town Park, then moves to the festival site and the big tent atop Reservoir Hill Saturday and Sunday.

This summer season is especially important for Pagosa Country. It is critical to the local economy that tourist trade remain steady, if not increase. A great deal is at stake, with badly needed revenues hinging on the success of the season. The town, in particular, is dependent on sales tax, and the county receives a share of sales tax revenues.

There is reason to believe this summer could bring a healthy number of visitors to the area. Requests for visitor information are up, and reservations of certain town amenities are likewise up.

Now, it is everyone’s job — not just that of the merchants and hoteliers — to ensure that our visitors feel welcome and enjoy their stays here. It is largely up to the business sector and private citizens to lead the way in providing the goods, services and experiences visitors appreciate, and showing the good will that makes them comfortable and, with luck, willing to return and to tell their friends about this place as a vacation destination.

Note, we did not include government in this mix. Granted, government plays a small role in the process: quality law enforcement, fire and medical services are critical in this situation, as are continued efforts by local government to maintain and improve infrastructure. But government can’t take the lead here, much less do the lion’s share of the job.

Local government can do very little to ensure a healthy tourist economy, aside from contributions to tourism committees. Nor, in fact, can it do the heavy lifting when it comes to improving the general economy.

This flies in the face of much of what we hear on the streets — a general discontent with local government. But, aside from our call to government in all its forms to do as much of its business in the clear light of day as possible, with proper and full notice, we believe local elected officials are, for the most part, doing a good job — in very difficult conditions.

The town council last week went again to the chopping block regarding a budget reflecting weak sales tax returns. The incremental scheme the council is using is extremely sound, and budget cuts are being undertaken with great care, following accurate assessments of revenues and programs.

County government is proceeding ahead on a road plan, with major projects in the works. The days of strife and contentious governance are over.

The health services district is working to create a Rural Health Clinic, while continuing to operate EMS and the new hospital — to the satisfaction of most clients.

The school district operates sensibly with the revenues it receives.

There is little else local governments can do to improve the local economy, except create reasonable impact fees and to streamline planning processes and procedures — and we continue to make the case that reasonable impact fees and effective planning systems will be necessary once commercial and residential development begin again. In fact, these things will be needed if that trend is to begin at all.

Now, however, summer looms. We need to do our best, when we can, to make our visitors welcome. We have plenty of things to offer them and, heaven knows, they have a lot to offer us.

Karl Isberg