Leave the hill alone
No ski lifts, balloon rides, zip lines, alpine coaster and low-rent circus atmosphere on one of the few municipal gems in southwest Colorado.
In difficult times, it is tempting to fix hopes on the promise of profit.
The possibility that money might flow prompts all manner of ideas, causes people to promote projects without a long-range vision concerning effects.
Such, we believe, is the case with most of the ideas concerning development of Reservoir Hill.
Research shows similar ideas succeed in other locations and would likely bear economic fruit here. We do not disagree. Some of the amenities proposed for the hill would make money, some would draw tourist traffic to the hill, with a degree of economic spillover to other local businesses.
Our point is based on another consideration: What do you give up for money?
The question is heard often of late; it is also asked of proposed big box development and the desire in some quarters to provide incentives to lure business to town.
We believe, when it comes to incentives for business, any business: give up nothing.
When it comes to Reservoir Hill: give up nothing.
Pagosa Springs has few things that distinguish it from other small towns, and these must be handled carefully, with an eye beyond the immediate economic future. They must be handled with a goal of creating a vibrant, high-quality small business community in the downtown area. Note the term, “high-quality.”
With the chance a big box store will be located at the west end of town, the downtown area is ripe to become something special. Zip lines, ski lifts and alpine coasters on a rare public site are not special.
One of the best things about Pagosa is the San Juan River, flowing through the center of the downtown area. Installation of river features has proven effective. Any and all efforts to continue this project in other sections of the river should be encouraged.
A trail system awaits completion. Once the Riverwalk and the Town-to-Lakes Trail system are complete, this special amenity will be of benefit to locals and a treat for visitors.
Reservoir Hill is the most unusual amenity of all — a semi-wild mountain park, set in the middle of town. How many small towns boast something similar?
Anything done to the hill should entail minimum intrusion and careful management. The carnival-like proposals that have surfaced are certain to change the character of the hill in ways that cannot be undone. They will provide a low-level form of tourist entertainment, but at what cost?
Instead of the circus, the trail system on the hill should be improved and maintained. The health of the forested area must be ensured. The one area that could bear development is the festival site at the north end of the hill. But, even here, proposals should take into account the fragility of the environment. Two major festivals— the Folk ’N Bluegrass Festival and the Four Corners Folk Festival, lynchpins of the summer tourist season – use the site and it is about all the area can bear. Improvements should include infrastructure that allows for increased use, otherwise erosion of the site is certain. Improvement of the site and the road on the hill must include a commitment on the part of the town to provide staff and funds for intensive upkeep.
Add to these concerns a hesitance to favor permanent private business enterprises on town-owned property, and we are led to this: sell the ski lift and prompt those who want zip lines and coasters to put them on private property.
Meanwhile, let’s develop an extensive, high-quality small business community in the downtown area.