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Vision4Archuleta group presents ‘over-arching’ plan to BoCC

The Vision4Archuleta workgroup presented Archuleta County as a place where new and old come together at their Tuesday work session with the Board of County Commissioners, and urged the BoCC to step into the leadership role of taking the community into the future.

Patsy Lindblad, presenting for the self-made vision group, offered an “over-arching” vision to the BoCC, saying that the Archuleta community vision is for it to be a “good energy place,” one that offers a balanced life, “exceptional and enjoyable experiences,” distinctive businesses, handcrafted products and intellectual property.

Lindblad continued that the community should embrace both traditional ideals and modern values, and that the people honor a number of ideals and characteristics, among them education, art, knowledgeable retirees, visitors, cowboys and pockets of independent thinking.

To accomplish the vision, the group suggested that the community needs to adopt standards which encourage a modern southwestern community to emerge.

The group suggested that the community needs to establish an atmosphere of forward thinking and open-mindedness, embrace new technologies for education, industry and hospitality.

The group also suggested creating a larger community around an “old town” area, while maintaining pockets of uinqueness in places such as Aspen Springs and Chromo.

“The town has traditional values that they’re steeped in,” Lindblad told the BoCC.

The group also suggested that the formation of a larger export market would balance out the money leaking from the community.

While the work group was thinking in more abstract terms, Commissioner Clifford Lucero was looking at previously discussed possibilities in the county, asking if the group had discussed “big-box” retailers.

“Yes, we did talk about it, and it’s ... more, you’re getting down into the leaves of the forest as opposed to talking about the forest,” Lindblad said, “so we really didn’t spend a lot of time on that.”

“My deal is jobs, too, though,” Lucero said, continuing that he was concerned about jobs for the current residents.

Lindblad said that, likely, future jobs coming into the area would be more technical-based, but that the group had not focused on that topic. The community needs to define and develop what it sees as a forte, such as a retirement community, or something else, she said.

Commissioner John Ranson also brought up the question of helping those who are currently in the community and struggling.

“The issue is, you know, the locals don’t have the money in their pockets to spend, so that forces us to rely on tourists, who now are holding on to the money in their pockets,” said group member Wendy Saunders, adding, “Now we have to be a little more creative and outside the box and think about, you know, jobs that will be here year-round and employ locals year-round.”

Group member Leanne Goebel agreed, noting that the community needs to stabilize and attract people to the community all 12 months of the year.

“We need to diversify from that, but until we stabilize what we have, our school situation, our road and infrastructure situation, all the issues that we have, why would any business or company come here?” Goebel said. “They won’t.”

Another group member noted that the mindset of the community needed to switch to that of business, and information should be available to any companies looking to locate in the community.

Lucero told the group that, in fact, a number of things were being down to move toward that vision, such as technological advances at the Archuleta County Education Center and creation of the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation.

Lindblad warned that the community needs to focus on one or two niches, instead of trying to “be everything to everyone,” later adding that the community needed to determine what those niches would be.

County Attorney Todd Starr later echoed Lucero’s point, saying that the work group had been accurately describing the CDC and its rapid response team, which helps potential new businesses, and added that part-time residents need to be more engaged in the community.

A discussion then ensued discussing possible methods, such as e-mail newsletters to keep second-home owners updated and perhaps more likely to involve themselves.

At the end of the hour-long work session, the vision group had turned over its “over-arching” vision to the commissioners, urging them to look at what they wanted the base of the community to be, and to develop a plan to reach that goal.

Lindblad said the BoCC’s next steps should be to publicly announce a path, and to actively work on putting a plan together to make it happen, something group member Larry Fisher likened to creating a blueprint for a house, which then must be built in the correct order to be viable.

County Administrator Greg Schulte stated that the topic would likely be discussed at a proposed BoCC retreat in August.

randi@pagosasun.com