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TTC discusses Reservoir Hill strategy

Faced with widespread opposition to a full build-out of recreational amenities on Reservoir Hill, the Town Tourism Committee has appeared to shift gears on the proposed project with several key committee members stating a desire to pursue a scaled-down version of the project, while dropping the more controversial elements.

While no firm decision has been reached, discussions held by TTC members during two separate meetings last week indicated that the proposed installation of a chairlift and an alpine coaster would most likely be dropped altogether.

The hint that plans would be revised followed a presentation by Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation Board Member Mark Weiler during the TTC’s monthly meeting last Wednesday.

Initially, Weiler’s presentation began as a proposal for developing a new approach for tourist attraction, as well as considering a 2-percent boost in the town’s lodgers tax (with half of the new revenues funding Reservoir Hill improvements, the rest for the PSCDC).

Weiler then shifted his focus, saying, “What I want the TTC to consider is a pivot. When faced with an inability to develop enough support for an idea, some people would say, ‘Well, you know what, full speed ahead and I’ll just keep bashing into that brick wall until I can bash through it.’ Or, pivot and to try to go and show us something.

“The idea that I want you to please consider is to state publically, that at this point you would like to abandon the chair lift, the alpine coaster and perhaps the zip line.”

Saying that those amenities had been proposed in order to fund the rest of the project, Weiler added, “Those things were the lightning rod issues that could not get enough community support in order to be sustainable. And it taints the rest of the project. The rest of the project is fantastic, but people can’t get through the negative part of that.”

Claiming that the non-controversial elements of the project could be funded through additional lodgers tax as well as alternative funding sources, Weiler said, “I believe that we’ve soiled the bed, so to speak, as it relates to the chair lift and so forth; I don’t believe that we’ll ever be able to recover until there’s actual physical activity up there.

“I think it sends a message to the community,” Weiler concluded, “to say, ‘You know what? We had a great idea, but we couldn’t convince enough people that it was great enough. So we’re going to pivot now.’ It’s OK to admit that something didn’t work. What’s not OK is to continue to put human resources against an idea that has dubious possibilities of fruition. That’s the bad part, and it’s my personal opinion that we’re past that point.”

In response, TTC members conceded that recent conversations within the group had led to a reconsideration of the project. TTC Chair Bob Hart asked board member Larry Fischer (who worked with the committee’s Reservoir Hill Task Force) for his thoughts.

“Actually, we’ve been discussing something very similar to that,” Fischer said. “But it’s not exactly like that. I’d like some time to do a little research, maybe talk to Mark a little bit more.”

Asking for more time to consider, Fischer added, “There are a number of different options, going that direction.”

TTC member Valerie Green added that the realization of little community support for the original concept had finally hit the group and said that it was time to move on for the sake of putting an end to a divided community.

“Unfortunately, it (the chair lift) has become negative,” Hart said, adding “... no one wants to ruin Reservoir Hill. We’re just looking for a way to fund something that brings more people here. That’s the bottom line.”

After agreeing that more time was needed to consider Weiler’s suggestion, members of the TTC gathered Friday evening to discuss the future direction of the project.

At that meeting committee members worked to develop options that would be presented to the TTC for final approval.

Saying that tree removal would be required on the hill no matter what options were decided on (the U.S. Forest Service claims as many as 60 percent of the trees on the hill would need to be removed in order to mitigate fire danger and potential beetle kill), Fischer added that “do nothing” meant no development beyond necessary treatment of the forest.

“I think we should come up with some alternatives (to full buildout) that will be acceptable,” Fischer said.

TTC Director Jennie Green added that the TTC would eventually present the Pagosa Springs Town Council with multiple options.

Although a full buildout of the hill was offered as one of the options, most attendees agreed that the development of infrastructure (adding water, electricity, sewer — with bathrooms — to the top of the hill, along with road and trail improvements, would be essential to any other proposed amenities.

However, members of the group acknowledged that the “lightning rod issues” would most likely result in a poison pill for other proposed developments.

“Until we get rid of the coaster and the chairlift,” said TTC board member Morgan Murri, “we won’t get anything done.”

While the TTC appeared to reject all amusement amenities during Wednesday’s meeting, the group shifted gears again on Friday, agreeing that a zip line canopy tour not only provided revenue potential, but was a low-impact feature that would retain large public support.

TTC member Carla Shaw said that, in her capacity as an employee with The Springs Resort, the most common complaint she heard was that, “There’s no place for a big family reunion or a big wedding. We don’t have any place to accommodate a big group like that, a pavilion big enough to handle that. And I think we could attract a lot more people here if we had that.”

Shaw said that an amenity like a permanent amphitheater on the hill would provide that service and would go a long way towards boosting tourism.

Additionally, Green said that, no matter which direction the TTC chooses to proceed, “We need to bring the Parks and Rec Commission in on this. We were tasked to work with them and, I guarantee, if we aren’t working with them, nothing is getting done. The parks are theirs.”

By the end of both meetings, while no decisions were made, the TTC appeared to conclude that time had come to shift gears and revamp its original plans.

“People on both sides, of every question, have been attacking everybody else,” said Fischer. “And that is the thing, that, we can disagree, but that doesn’t mean you’re a scumbag. We need to make sure, individually, that our statements are not degrading.”

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