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Sen. Michael Bennet to visit Pagosa, review geothermal greenhouse plan

Although well beneath the radar the past couple of months, the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) will get a boost of recognition when Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet will visit Pagosa Springs on Monday, Aug, 17, to get a closer look at the project.

No schedule has been released for the senator’s visit.

“It’s an exciting project,” said Michael Amodeo, press secretary for Sen. Bennet. “We’ve heard great things about it.”

Long the brainchild of Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon, the project has experienced fits and starts over the past several years as the idea floundered without a clear concept. Fortunately, the plan was kick-started last December as Aragon and local volunteers reestablished a committee to develop concrete goals for making the mayor’s dream a reality.

Since then, the GGP has pursued both state and federal funding, developed a business plan and, through an in-kind donation from Civil Design Team engineers, a draft site plan.

“We will be introducing a final draft site plan for public review during Sen. Bennet’s visit,” said GGP committee member Michael Whiting.

The GGP plan, still pending and open for public review, includes three to five domes (from local company Growing Spaces). As currently conceived, the project would include two to three 51-foot domes to serve as community gardens and pilot projects, with one to two 33-foot domes used as a visitor’s center and exhibition garden. Designated as the first phase of the project, the public geothermal greenhouses would hopefully generate enough interest to establish the groundwork for a Phase II — commercial applications of geothermally-heated greenhouses.

Despite progress towards pushing those plans forward, the GGP continues seeking funding and volunteers to assist in working on various aspects of the project.

Still, with some pieces missing, Whiting expressed enthusiasm for Sen. Bennet’s visit and implied support.

“I’m psyched,” Whiting said. “I’ve talked to Sen. Bennet’s staff several times in the last couple of weeks and he’s coming here for the geothermal greenhouse project. It’s the reason he’s stopping in downtown Pagosa Springs.”

Amodeo confirmed Whiting’s statement, saying, “It’s something he’s deeply interested in. What we’re focusing on is the various aspects of the geothermal resources that’s the lifeblood of Pagosa Springs.”

Amodeo added that the GGP’s reliance on community involvement has likewise stirred Bennet’s interest in the project, saying, “Another thing that interests us is that it’s a group of people working together for a common goal.”

“The idea to marry the new energy economy with the goal of providing safe and healthy food for area residents is very exciting.”

Likewise, given the opportunity to showcase his dream and the beauty of his town to a U.S. Senator, Aragon expressed enthusiasm for the visit. “I think we get to showcase the resource that we have here that has not been utilized to its full potential.”

Regarding the recognition Bennet’s visit will give the GGP’s project and its impact on the area as far as jobs creation and taking advantage of geothermal resources, Aragon added, “That’s going to be our theme: economic development and a green economy. Who can argue with that?”

jim@pagosasun.com