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Did you make a trip to downtown Pagosa Springs last weekend?
If so, surely you noticed.
Do you remember what the Labor Day holiday was like in Pagosa Springs 25 years ago?
Sure, it was nice. Often, there was a football game (back then, they were played on Saturday afternoon). There were visitors in town as the fall color and big game hunting seasons revved up. There was an occasional, small event.
What did you notice this year?
The place was packed.
The year’s major entertainment event — the Four Corners Folk Festival — produced an 18th annual edition that equaled its best. The festival draws more people to Pagosa Country over its three-day run than any other single event and this year’s show sent people home buzzing about world-class acts and the spectacular venue atop Reservoir Hill — the best advertising a town can have.
There was water in the San Juan and the ever-improving waterway drew crowds of tubers and waders. The town’s effort to expand and improve the amenity has been a great driver of an increase in downtown activity during summer months. The river was a center of activity during the holiday.
A carnival brought people to Town Park, adding to the excitement.
The town was hopping.
You don’t have to be an oldtimer to notice something else if you’ve made a trip downtown recently.
A number of storefronts that sat vacant now house businesses. Buildings that were empty and for sale are getting makeovers in preparation for a business enterprise.
If you read last week’s SUN, you know the old downtown City Market building changed hands. According to a representative of the buyer, there are plans to begin with exterior improvements — a welcome change for a building that has become an eyesore, bearing the yellowing remains of kids’ Christmas posters in windows.
In short, the downtown business environment is picking up steam.
It is due to little else but an upswing in market conditions — an upswing not prompted by any group or commission, for, as other places go, so goes Pagosa.
The Pagosa Country economy is inextricably bound to those in other places. When times are good in west Texas, in Oklahoma, in California, they are good here. Any and all “light industry” is welcome, but, when it comes down to it, Pagosa relies on tourism, second home purchases and retirees. When the market allows, the town responds.
Business life here is sure to remain cyclical, riding as we do at rear end of the economic animal, but there are things that can be done to secure an advantage when times are good and guard against undue loss when they aren’t.
A share of the responsibility lies with realistic planning on the part of business owners, in relation to market fluctuation. Then, there is town government — its foresight, its willingness to undertake projects that fortify a positive business environment.
First, council can ensure events like the festival are held and continue to grow. Make no changes to the site on the hill without consultation with festival organizers. They know what will work, where it should be and how it should be built.
The town should plan and complete fundamental projects (sidewalks, curb and gutter, streets, lighting, river and trail improvements) before launching anything new. This infrastructure is the foundation on which a healthy economic community rests.
If you haven’t been downtown lately, make the trip. Attend the remaining fall events — among them ColorFest and the new MAKERS Expo and Tour. Take in a world-class theater production.
Good things are happening. Karl Isberg