New model

Dear Editor:

There are two emerging projects that demonstrate a new approach to community improvement projects we should embrace. These projects are healing some of the rifts in our fractious little community.

The Town of Pagosa Springs Recreation Center Project is one. This project began with a recreation survey of the community. The people said that a recreation center was the second highest priority, second only to open space. This project began with what the community wants.

Town council allocated money for a feasibility study and design proposal, but ultimately decided we couldn’t afford it at the time. Like so many, many other studies, it began to collect dust on the town’s shelf.

But here is the new idea and approach: Kathie Lattin saw the value in this project and dusted it off, assembled a citizen’s committee to move it forward and has been championing it in public forums to the community, listening to all views.

Imagine this. In Pagosa Springs where we have so many diverse opinions and town government sometimes plays an adversarial role against the broader community (e.g. Reservoir Hill development), we are working effectively on community development.

Not just top-down from town and not just bottom-up from the community, but together. Ultimately, it is not about the town recreation center as much as the new approach that should serve as a model for future projects! Ultimately, the proposed recreation center will be put on the ballot and the people will decide the issue, as they should. As the Citizen’s Recreation Center Committee, our job is to educate the public, then step aside and let the people vote.

The second community development project is crowdfunding to help build an observation deck at the top of our public, in-town wilderness park. The Friends of Reservoir Hill is championing this project. They are really promoting another priority of the town recreation survey — open space, creating low impact amenities that entice locals and tourists alike to enjoy the park and experience nature.

The Pagosa Springs CDC set up the crowdfunding project with and is serving as the fiscal agent so that donors can get charitable tax deductions and, as an Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone Project, the CDC can also provide donors of $300 or more with a 25 percent Colorado State Tax Credit. So a $300 donation nets a $75 tax credit as well as the charitable tax deduction. And the people are voting with their dollars. So far, 31 citizen-investors have contributed $3,983 out of the $5,400 goal for Phase I — 74 percent of goal.

The new model here that is working is that two charitable organizations are partnering to make it possible for the community’s commitments to be harnessed to make community improvements that we can all agree on. We are also leveraging Colorado’s economic incentives effectively to help. And the town is embracing this project and enabling it.

Wow, in Pagosa Springs?

We should nurture these fledgling efforts and find ways to create more.

Muriel Eason

This story was posted on December 12, 2013.