OPINION: Pagosa Springs, Who Do We Want To Be?
Lauri Heraty | 3/5/13

The Pagosa Daily Post subscribes to various news and media sources for potential articles of interest. As I weed through the barrage of daily e-mails, I usually keep my mouse on the "trash" button. There is very little that pertains to our part of Colorado or perhaps similar communities where we can garner some thought provoking  ideas to help energize our community (if that is indeed what we want).  Today I received an article about the booming oil industry which is energizing North Dakota. This could not be further from what we are experiencing here in sleepy little Pagosa Springs.  In oil rich parts of North Dakota, hotels hang “No Vacancy” signs which never come down, “Man Camps” (300sf trailers with mini kitchens, a bath room and bed stacked side by side to house employees) spread atop the once barren farmland like dandelions in spring, studio apartments rent for $2,000 per month (if you can find them) and restaurants have nightly waiting lists.

What does this have to do with Pagosa Springs and why would anyone want to read about a once desolate place now thriving, providing college education opportunities and ample employment across sectors from service industries to technical engineering, excavators to carpenters? Most likely, if you have lived in Pagosa Springs long enough to have experienced the “rise and fall” (2005 – present), you know someone, or perhaps like me, many people, who have left Pagosa when they could not find enough work locally to “make some money so they could return”.  Interestingly, none of those that I know who left Pagosa to make money in North Dakota have returned. Some have called us to list their home for sale, some have rented their homes with a dream of returning;  one of our engineer friends commutes leaving his wife and son here while he tries to return “home” once a month for a visit. His income provides ample financial resources for his wife and son to visit him and they certainly have more flexibility of time, but there are no hotel rooms available. They have talked about moving so they can be a family but the waiting list for new construction homes is about a year out and there are currently no homes available in the re-sale market.  When they come to our office to meet with my husband Mike about the value of their home, they realize that unless they are willing to take a significant loss over their purchase price from 2005, they will need to wait. I wonder how long?

I miss some of those friends who are now making their living in North Dakota. Most have hung onto a piece of something here in Pagosa Springs with dreams of returning.  But a year turned into two, and then three and now even four for some of these friends and they visit far less often as time passes. I wonder if returning to Pagosa is still part of their dream? 

I think back to when it seemed we had a bit more of that thriving energy.  My husband Mike and I own a real estate company, The Pagosa Source. Those thriving years were fun I have to admit. We could eat out more, I shopped at Happy Trails more frequently, I didn’t worry as much about our community and where we were headed. It felt like people were energized and things hummed along with some progress albeit slow at times.  Now I watch so many great intentions stall shortly outside the starting gate. Many people work so hard they have a hard time getting or staying involved in things that might make a difference. We have meetings upon meetings, and so many groups that we are running out of acronyms. Yet we still struggle to get energized to truly get from point A to point B. We just can’t seem to figure out what it is we want to be.  Is it getting better, getting worse or staying the same? I really don’t see much change. Will an observation deck on Reservoir Hill really make a difference?  Does that enhance a visitor’s stay here in such a way that they’ll want to come back again and again to enjoy more of what Pagosa has to offer leaving behind some sales tax revenue with each trip? Or will the deck just enhance our own experience here and if so, who are the people that have the time to enjoy it?  Will more groups trying to do more things get us to a place that we really have “community” again? Or do we need to “go on a diet”; trim back from so many groups trying so many things that progress is barely detectable?

I certainly have more questions than answers. Attempting to keep the Daily Post alive while changing the flavor to encourage community participation has certainly opened my eyes to challenges we face to define who we are and what we really, really want to be as the “Community of Pagosa Springs”.  In order to stay educated about everything going on in an attempt to define Pagosa Springs, you would have to attend meetings full-time and often you would be double booked.  I am Editor of the Daily Post and have a full-time job (as well as a family). I can’t do that and I believe I represent the majority of the current population that still need to earn a living to pay the bills. So where we will be in a year, or two, or three? And will our friends who left Pagosa Springs for North Dakota be able to return to make a living here?

What are they actually doing in North Dakota? I’ve rambled on so long, you will need to check back tomorrow to read the actual article that spurned this commentary…


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