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Bring it back to where it belongs

News from meetings held last week indicates members of the Town Tourism Committee might change their approach concerning proposed developments on Reservoir Hill.

Following realistic remarks by Mark Weiler, and an indication from commission members that attitudes have begun to change, it seems the group could pull back from the more controversial suggestions for amenities on this unique, semi-wild resource located in downtown Pagosa Springs. Many local residents have expressed consternation concerning a proposed chairlift, an alpine coaster, a zip line and other amenities for the hill. Most of the proposals met with opposition on occasion in this space.

We believe Weiler’s suggestion that a change in direction is called for, and comments of a similar nature by commission members are sensible and could, with some further adjustments, lead to continued positive work by the committee.

TTC Director Jennie Green hinted at those adjustments when she noted a connection mentioned in this space in the past. Green reminded TTC members the committee needed to work with the town parks and recreation commission.

Indeed.

In our opinion, the basic misstep that led to the controversy over the Reservoir Hill proposals stemmed from the fact the TTC overstepped its bounds when it first undertook the project. There is a huge difference between suggestions made to an appropriate commission and a headlong rush into a planning process that, in reality, is the purview of the other group. The town parks and recreation commission has existed for decades, tasked with making recommendations concerning parks and recreation programs and projects to the town council. This commission should be the source point for development proposals for Reservoir Hill. This group should first evaluate, then pursue all ideas relating to the use of the hill.

The Town Tourism Committee is tasked with promotion of Pagosa’s tourism industry. It is not a stretch for its members to wonder if amenities on Reservoir Hill could add to the attraction of the area. It is a stretch to leap unbounded into a process that results in purchase of a chairlift and an avid pursuit of a major project —absent the participation of the parks and recreation commission and the town parks and recreation department.

So, how does a process get so far down the road without anyone putting on the brakes? Who monitors the activities of committees appointed by council? Who keeps the flow chart intact?

The answer is that the town council is ultimately responsible for all activities of its appointed bodies. Town councilors are elected to embody the interests of constituents and to act as the final administrators of town business. Council members are responsible for examining and correcting proposed expenditures of town funds in pursuit of that business.

The reality is that councilors are volunteers, with only so much time and energy to devote to civic duties. Thus, there is an administrative hierarchy that deals with the day-to-day activities of departments and committees.

We suggest there was a breakdown of oversight in the Reservoir Hill situation that allowed the process to be assumed by the wrong body and run out of control. There is a cost involved, and we suggest the funds used to date could have been used best elsewhere.

To fund the productive work the TTC has undertaken to make potential visitors aware of this desirable destination.

We hope, with attention turned from the Reservoir Hill project, the TTC can do more of this kind of work. And we hope development of any kind on the hill — be it of the festival site, the roads or trails — is left to the parks and recreation commission, where it should have been all along. Karl Isberg

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