Around 20 people showed up to the second public forum hosted by the Pagosa First group at the Ruby Sisson Public Library.
The group originally formed in response to the announcement that Wal-Mart intended to locate in the Town of Pagosa Springs.
“Once people get here, they fall in love with the place,” Ed Wood said. He attended the meeting because he retired in Pagosa from Washington D.C. to, “get away from the city, not bring it with me.”
According to local businessman Jerry Smith, regardless of whether people view Wal-Mart as good or bad, people in Pagosa were upset because they felt they had no say in the matter. That is one of the reasons for the group forming, but now the hope is that the impetus will evolve into action, i.e. finding ways to revitalize the Town of Pagosa Springs.
Udgar Parsons, local businessman and founding member of the group, began the meeting saying that what was happening was beyond Wal-Mart.
“It’s fine to say no, but think what’s next, work out a way to evolve and grow,” Parsons said. As he read the group’s mission statement to a majority of newcomers, it became apparent the core values of the group and those in attendance seem to be positive growth, sustainability, revitalizing the downtown, attracting new business and “defin(ing) what a Colorado mountain town can be.”
The group thus began to discuss ways that Pagosa could attract new and different types of business.
“How can we make Pagosa more magnetic and attractive to businesses?,” Parsons asked.
A new businessman to town, Donald Kubelka, mentioned that many new businesses are in technology and don’t really require an office space; many times all that is needed is a cell phone. While these businesses may come to Pagosa, it won’t show in the storefronts downtown. Kubelka then suggested that the community try to attract businesses by promoting what makes a profit. This idea, though, was never defined.
“We don’t want to focus on the negative of Wal-Mart; we take that as a given,” said Parsons, reminding the group during meandering discussions. “We want to see what work we can do to revitalize the community.”
While a new-to-Pagosa young man, Sway Vera, felt frustrated with what he saw offered in the downtown retail business.
“If it doesn’t clothe me, feed me or shelter me, then I don’t care about it,” Vera said.
Fellow newcomer to town, in the computer consulting business, Alan Livshin, pushed for eco-tourism, saying he thought Pagosa could be the “gateway to sustainability” (a phrase coined by Puja Parsons at the last meeting) and show other communities how this could be accomplished.
The majority of the group agreed with this idea, with the geothermal greenhouse project in the downtown area being a main player.
Vera then suggested that Pagosa community members combine their monetary resources to create their own credit union. This topic might be elaborated on during the next meeting.
Parsons wrapped up the meeting stating that Pagosa was a microcosm of what was going on throughout the country. Those who felt powerless when it was announced that Wal-Mart might be building in town, Parsons said now feel that, not only can their voice be heard, but it needs to be heard.
“We all know what we want, but we don’t know how to get it. It’s not a community problem, it’s a what-do-we-do problem,” Livshin said. Parsons, however, said the practical steps would be discussed at the next meeting.
The next Pagosa First public forum will be held tonight at 6 p.m. in the Ross Aragon Community Center Tile Room. All are welcome to attend. According to Parsons, an action plan will be revealed and discussed at the meeting.