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Has another ‘vision’ disappeared?

We’ve lived in Pagosa for 28 years, now. A lot has changed. Much stays the same.

Sometimes there are things that happen that catch me by surprise. Some things, however, are fairly predictable.

One thing that is predictable is that businesses come and go. It’s a sad reality of a community like ours — it’s a real challenge to start a successful and enduring business venture.

Another thing that’s predictable is a continuing parade of new community development efforts, complete with community input surveys and fancy architectural drawings of the imagined outcome. Sometimes good things come out of these ideas. Far more predictable, however, is having these efforts drop off the radar screen and disappear from public view.

One that comes to mind was a survey commissioned by the Town of Pagosa Springs regarding our parks and recreation needs and desires. RRC Associates out of Boulder, Colo., was commissioned a few years back at a cost (as I recall) of around $12,000 to conduct this survey. A “mail-back” survey approach was used, with 2,200 surveys mailed out in February 2006. A 64-page report documents the findings of that survey.

I’ve included below excerpts from the report, which documented our desires for making Pagosa Springs a more livable (and lovable) community at that time.

In the area of general improvements: “A key finding that emerged from the research was residents’ strong enthusiasm for the community’s parks, trails, and open space. Residents are active users of these downtown assets and would like to see expansion in all three areas. When asked to prioritize potential improvements in the areas of parks and recreation, ‘open space acquisition and preservation’ was the top priority (84 percent). Also very important to residents was expansion of walking and bike trails — within Town as well as linking the east and west ends of Pagosa Springs. Other improvements that were important were a new recreation center, improved ‘gateways’ to Town, and an outdoor amphitheater for performing arts.

“The strength of the community’s desire for ‘open space acquisition’ is an interesting finding given the fact that Pagosa Springs is surrounded by public lands. Aside from the issue of ease of access and convenience to users, the data and comments suggest that residents would like to see more integration of public open spaces interspersed throughout the community — through neighborhood parks, bike paths and trails, and so on.

“Regarding the San Juan River, respondents are focused on improving public access to the river. Again, similar to the issue with open space, this is perhaps an indication of the public’s concern about preserving access to the river as development pressures increase along the river. Also important to residents is shore habitat improvement, parking access to the river, improved river trail system, and tubing areas.

“Reservoir Hill is clearly a unique and important asset to the downtown experience in Pagosa Springs. Nearly three-quarters of respondents would like to see improved on-site amenities to Reservoir Hill such as restrooms, water fountains, more picnic tables, and so on. Additional improvements receiving significant support include an expanded hiking trail system, more information on what is available on the Hill, and improved parking. It should be noted that the latter two improvements are not particularly capital intensive and would not require a significant monetary investment in order to increase the year-round usage of Reservoir Hill (assuming that the parking issue is more about raising awareness on where lots are located as opposed to increasing the capacity — rarely are the lots at the base of Reservoir Hill full). 58 percent of respondents wanted to see a dedicated area for snow sports activities. Less important are improved directional/interpretive signage, more activities on the Hill in general, and more points of access from Town.

“Families are the primary users and supporters of expanded recreational programs and facilities. Many feel that the recreational needs of children, particularly middle and high school students are underserved. A similar survey was fielded last year among junior high and high schoolers: over two thirds of students felt that activities and recreational facilities for youth are ‘inadequate.’ Among students, development of a multi-purpose recreation center was by far the most important improvement that the Town could make to improve the youth experience in Pagosa Springs — 9 percent of youth indicated that the addition of a recreation center would be ‘important’ to them.

“Over half (59 percent) of respondents indicated that they would like to see ‘more youth programs and activities.’ While improving and perhaps expanding youth programs might address some of the perceived lack of activities for children, a new recreation center was consistently mentioned among adults and youth themselves as being an important amenity that would directly serve the needs of children and families in the community. The most important features of a new recreation center were a weight room, indoor pool, multipurpose space for meetings, and an area for teen activities and programs.

“The broad level of support for teen activities and programs — including even support from those without children — is an interesting and somewhat surprising finding. There was not this same degree of consensus regarding programs for children in other age categories, suggesting that the population as a whole considers healthy and active programs for teens to be a pressing community-wide issue.

“In summary, most respondents recognized the need to address the issue of providing adequate recreational programs and facilities in the community, especially for children. As one person put it: ‘Although we, as seniors, have not participated in youth or adult sports activities, we have enjoyed watching your family members play.’ As Pagosa Springs continues to attract retirees and second homeowners, it becomes increasingly important to balance the needs and demands of the diverse population segments that make up the community. Reflective of these diverse needs was the desire for a wide array of recreational amenities, such as open space, trails and bike paths, parks, a recreation center, and so on.

“Developing a long-term strategic plan that prioritizes and phases these improvements with an eye toward the anticipated change in demographics of residents and visitors is strongly recommended as a priority for the Town.”

Does this still represent our vision for making Pagosa a healthier, more livable and more lovable community?

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