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Productive projects underway

There are projects underway in Pagosa Country that will benefit the local area and its residents, economically and environmentally, as well as send a signal that progress of another, significant sort is being made.

Two projects relate to the economic well being of the community and the potential for development of natural and social resources. One deals with the resource that defines the area. Another could result in funds for nonprofits in the area to assist with the work they do here. A third is a project that must be finished before others begin — a project with symbolic meaning.

The first process has to do with Pagosa’s geothermal resource. Consideration of the use of geothermal water has existed here since humans discovered the hot water. The water has been used for therapeutic and recreational purposes over the years and for a limited amount of heating via a downtown system. Many ideas have been hatched concerning expanded use of the resource, to include agriculture, and a number of efforts were made to study and define the resource.

The problem: data has not been sufficiently precise to allow for progress. Now, a move is underway, involving the Colorado School of Mines and supported by town and county, to fully explore the nature of the resource and its possible uses. Personnel from CSM have been at work here (see the story in this SUN), and the local effort is a leader in Colorado in terms of evaluating the possibility of developing renewable energy sources with local control, producing local revenue.

The Pagosa Verde Symposium will bring experts to Pagosa on July 25 to discuss similar issues and share knowledge, and local residents are encouraged to attend (see story in this SUN). As Pagosa Verde’s Jerry Smith says, “… community knowledge, support and engagement is the most important factor in successful growth.”

In a second instance, local proponents have ensured Pagosa will be the site for the 2014 Rural Philanthropy Days event next June. The conference will bring a large number of people to town along with representatives of grant-making institutions and organizations. There will be an immediate economic benefit and, with successful efforts to obtain grants, there could be significant long-term effects as well.

A final project worthy of note is one that must be completed as soon as possible. Its value is complicated: it will provide key infrastructure to the central community in Pagosa Country but, perhaps more important, it will serve as a symbol of healing long in the making.

This is the completion of the Town-to-Lakes Trail and its connections with a trail system in Pagosa Lakes and with a completed downtown trail system that includes the Riverwalk system and trails on Reservoir Hill. Before the town undertakes any other projects, it must finish this one.

The Riverwalk system has remained incomplete for years; it is time to finish it. Trails on Reservoir Hill can be improved. Most important, the Town-to-Lakes Trail must be built. First, to provide a much-needed path for bikers, walkers and runners from east to west in the greater community.

And, second, as a concrete sign that things have changed.

Those who were here 25 to 30 years ago remember the antagonism and acrimony that tainted relations between many residents of town and of the Pagosa Lakes subdivisions. Now, there is cooperation.

While Colorado law keeps the town and the unincorporated county politically divided, the trail will act as a link. One of the most impressive trail systems in southwest Colorado will help bandage what was once a nasty wound.

Karl Isberg

This story was posted on July 18, 2013.