Dear Editor:

Amidst great controversy, the Town Tourism Committee and Town Council are still entertaining a plan to turn Reservoir Hill into an amusement park. This is being done without in-depth financial studies, local consensus or a persuasive analysis of the best tourist niche for Pagosa to pursue. Many locals fear we will squander limited resources and cause long-term damage if this plan is implemented. Proponents of the full TTC plan refuse to compromise or negotiate back to low key basics many agree to.

Alternatively, we could focus on enhancing the natural amenities provided by the Hill. The grandeur and outdoors experience the mountains represent is the enduring anchor of our tourism attraction. “Fun ride” facilities will never be, and shouldn’t be, a reason to visit Pagosa. The goal of a healthier tourist economy should coincide with a well-thought-out plan branding Pagosa as an outdoor adventure destination offering amenities carefully aligned with its unique natural strengths.

We suggest that discussions should revisit proposals the public accepted before the lift and alpine coaster concepts became obstacles to public acceptance. Engineering studies and the views of our local ski resort operator have emphasized many problems associated with the lift. Most residents, though, are in favor of improving existing park uses plus adding infrastructure such as restrooms, paved road access, overlook and amphitheater. These projects benefit tourists and locals alike.

Those resisting the TTC plan are not anti-change or radical tree-hugging activists. We’re citizens who believe it is in the best interest of our community to oppose a bad plan promoted by a small, well-meaning, but intransigent group. This group has leveraged its access to public funds and local political support in questionable tactics. We believe they have stifled participation by those with opposing views during the planning process and have provided biased information to town government while withholding legitimate, but opposing professional views.

Reservoir Hill Park is a beautiful and unique asset owned by town residents. Its fate should not rest in the private preserve of a small un-elected committee operating outside traditional town organizational structure. So, minus the town council reversing direction, Pagosa citizens are left to a referendum vote as the only effective means of having a say in contesting a bad plan that threatens to encumber us all with its financial and esthetic outcomes for years to come. The petition and referendum process is unpleasant, but necessary.

Friends of Reservoir Hill was formed to voice concern over a questionable business plan and flawed planning process. But we also want to contribute to community goals by positively moving forward on improvements for the park. It would be good to see better ideas take root.

A re-examination of TTC influence, TTC leadership and the plan they push on the rest of us is in order. A common vision, reached through communication instead of narrow advocacy, would bring the community back on board. We all want a park that enhances our community health and remains a valuable and attractive community resource. We believe an affluent and active outdoors tourist demographic is needed to fuel sustainable growth. This segment of the market would respond well to a more dignified expression of Pagosa values.

Ken Levine

This story was posted on February 7, 2013.