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A worthy dedication

On Tuesday, the Pagosa Springs Community Center was renamed. The dedication to Pagosa Springs Mayor Ross Aragon is more than fitting, and many of the reasons for doing so were noted at a brief ceremony. Several of those points bear mention here as well.

Ross Aragon has been mayor of Pagosa Springs for more than three decades, first assuming the post in 1978. He served these many years in an unpaid capacity. There are some local residents who claim nothing gets done in this town. A review of what has happened during Aragon’s tenure serves to discount the claim. We can argue about what needs to be done next, but there is no question that this place has changed mightily, and for the better, on Aragon’s watch.

Much of the improvement must be credited, in large part, to the mayor and his leadership.

Ask someone who was here 25 years ago about the condition of town streets at the time. A paved street was a rarity. The town was sanctioned by state and federal health agencies for repeated violations of air quality standards, one of three communities in the state held to account in that way. With Aragon at the helm, the town embarked on a multi-year street paving program. The sanctions were lifted, the air quality was markedly improved, the ease of negotiating town streets enhanced.

You want infrastructure improvements? Try four bridges. The first, the bridge on Hot Springs Boulevard. There was formidable opposition to that project, but it succeeded. There are now two footbridges across the river. A new bridge was constructed on Apache Street, providing a second connection to the site of the new high school. The bridge was built in Aragon’s back yard and forever changed his neighborhood. It got done, regardless.

Improvement projects on Lewis Street and Hot Springs Boulevard were completed.

The town’s park properties were more than tripled with a park and pond placed behind the River Center, Centennial Park put behind the courthouse, a park created on South 8th Street, a park and trail system installed on Reservoir Hill and, finally, a new complex, Yamaguchi Park, constructed on South 5th Street.

A project has transformed the San Juan River in downtown Pagosa Springs into a magnet for recreational activities.

Aragon was central to all this.

Aragon was at the helm when town government was brought into the modern age with the creation of a town manager post and later that of town administrator, and the addition of key departments and posts. All the while, unnecessary growth of government has been high on the agenda.

When two critical annexations caused great consternation in other parts of the county, Aragon and his board forged ahead and completed them, cementing the town’s financial foundation.

Then, there are the current Town Hall and the community center (with accompanying senior center) — buildings that have proven their worth. The facilities would not exist were it not for Aragon’s efforts and commitment. And, now, there is more on the mayor’s plate, with the proposed geothermal greenhouse project, a project that would not only add allure and economic vitality to the downtown area, but would preserve precious geothermal water rights.

Space constraints do not permit mention of many other public projects and improvement.

But mention must be made of what Ross Aragon has done all these years in a private mode. Agree with him or not, Ross loves this town and its people, and time and again, throughout his life here, people too numerous to count have benefited from his generosity, care and compassion.

Despite what the complainers say, this town, the center of our overall community, is a wonderful place to be. Imagine what it could be if the rest of us were half as concerned about its future as the mayor, and would spend half the time and energy he does on its behalf. All of us owe more than a dedication of a building to a man who has played such a major role in Pagosa Springs these many years. Karl Isberg