Farewell to a Pagosa dreamer


We received news this weekend that David Brown had passed away in Arizona. We are saddened and remember him for what he did, and what he wanted to do, when he was a member of the Pagosa community.

David came from California where he had a successful career in the commercial real estate development business. The man knew his stuff and he, and the company formed here, boosted the local skill set in dramatic fashion. And acted, at times, as a lightning rod for public opinion — good and bad. The presence of someone with ideas and the capital to proceed invariably draws criticism (some deserved, some not) as well as a measure of envy.

Dave brought a new level of vision to the community, with ideas and projects that dwarfed most that preceded them. He purchased ranch and lodging properties at the base of Wolf Creek Pass, renaming them Bootjack Ranch. He then set to work to transform downtown Pagosa Springs. He was not content to work with one small building at a time; he had a big picture in mind and he believed it would benefit his company and the community. He was a skilled businessman, and he wanted to do business here.

But, in Pagosa, he failed. In so doing, he provided a lesson that might benefit others, if they pay heed.

Dave had a plan that, through several manifestations, would have developed high-end properties, radically altering the character of the town. Initially, he attempted to create a Community Vision process to incorporate ideas from the residents of the area and corral their energies in the effort.

It did not work. Pagosa Country then, as it does now, had too many oldtimers who did not want things to change in dramatic fashion, and far too many relative newcomers who had all the answers, and whose importance was too great to be overshadowed by another’s project and vision.

What can be learned from Dave’s failure to solicit widespread agreement? When developing a privately owned project, find out what the regulations demand, satisfy the requirements and proceed. Do not ask for consensus; you will not find it.

Difficulties acquiring properties, including some along Hot Springs Boulevard, and the county courthouse property, put roadblocks in the way, but Dave purchased and demolished some downtown properties and, therein, provided another lesson: If you tear down an old property, remember, someone’s dentist used it as an office in 1938, or someone’s aunt’s best friend lived there during the ’50s. If the lot sits empty, memories fester. If you tear something down in Pagosa, put something up, immediately.

Dave’s ranch sold in 2010; the family moved to Arizona. The downtown properties were sold. Gone is an expansive vision. Gone is the urge to engage in transformation on a huge scale – along with the wherewithal to do it.

Grand plans aside, we should remember David and his wife, Carol, for the many wonderful things they did in and for this community.

The Browns were intensely interested in our local public education system and, as the mother of students, Carol was active in our schools.

The Browns were generous in their support of many local programs and events. Their support of Music in the Mountains provided a summer concert series for several years, held under a tent they supplied, at the ranch they owned — a series remembered fondly by everyone who enjoyed it.

Many were the donations the Browns made in Pagosa — charitable giving that benefited many.

Dave and his family will be missed. He was a dreamer who could change things; a man of deep and abiding faith, and a kind man, as well. We are fortunate that he and his family were among us.

Karl Isberg