EDITORIAL: Becoming an Authentic Community, Part Five

Read the first part

I had come across the 14-point list evoking our Town Hall’s dearest wishes for the year 2040, in the daily post December 2019 archive.

A few months before the arrival of the pandemic.

Here is that list again, as assembled at the City Council’s Summer 2019 Planning Retreat.

  • Convenient bypass to downtown within walking distance.
  • Well-connected trail network and sidewalk system leading to a multi-use park facility at Yamaguchi South.
  • Pagosa Springs continues to be a refreshing, authentic, and wholesome little mountain town.
  • Residents walking through the neighborhoods on the sidewalks – Smile!
  • Businesses and homes that attract and support a wide range of people.
  • A thriving economy (not just based on tourism).
  • Fewer cars on Main Street (due to a new parking garage).
  • Well-maintained and connected neighborhoods where people of diverse backgrounds and incomes live together.
  • Open spaces and preserved parks – Natural river crossing the city (not enclosed in concrete).
  • The streets, sidewalks, trails and parks are modern, clean and welcoming.
  • A diverse age stratum of locals.
  • Active and well-functioning local citizen government: Diverse board and long-serving staff.
  • Infill development has reduced the number of vacant lots (infill versus greenfield).
  • A large community recreation center.

You can download the Goals and objectives 2019-2020 here. The 20-year vision is on the last two pages of this document.

This list resulted from a question posed by host Yvonne Wilcox – basically, “What would you like to see Pagosa become 20 years in the future?” — and it probably took the Board and staff somewhat by surprise; the answers, presented above, are not the result of vigorous discussion or hours of careful research and scrutiny. But this represents some spontaneous ideas of the people in charge of our municipal government, before the pandemic.

Does it represent a vision of an “authentic community”?

We have juxtaposed some comparison in the previous daily post editorials, considering what kind of community we are creating here among the San Juan Mountains… looking for similarities and differences.

Pagosa Springs versus Disneyland.

Pagosa Springs, being a place where we want an authentic community one day.

Disneyland, which was never intended as a genuine community, and can never be anything other than a genuine theme park.

In the photo above we see Main Street USA, essentially a completely fake version of a quintessential small American town, circa 1910. In the distance we see the iconic castle – the spectacular residence of the King and Queen, which also serves as the entrance to Fantasyland.

If we were to compare what is happening in this photograph of Main Street USA, with the vision of the future assembled by the Pagosa Springs City Council in 2019, we can find some interesting comparisons.

Here are some items from the City Council’s “Our vision of what we want Pagosa to look like in 2040” list, which can also be used to describe Main Street USA at Disneyland:

  • Convenient bypass to downtown within walking distance.
  • Well-connected trail network and sidewalk system…
  • [People] Walk the neighborhoods on the sidewalks – smile!
  • Fewer cars on the main street…
  • Green spaces and preserved parks…
  • The streets, sidewalks, trails and parks are modern, clean and welcoming.
  • A diverse age stratum…
  • A large community recreation center.

I included “A large community recreation center” because, in a sense, Disneyland is essentially that. A very large community recreation center (outside).

We don’t currently have a “large community recreation center” in Pagosa Springs (although there is a smaller, private one serving PLPOA properties.) But like Disneyland, Pagosa Springs itself could be described as a large community recreation center (outside).

Here are the parts of the city council’s 20-year vision that might one day work for Pagosa, but will never work for Disneyland.

  • Pagosa Springs continues to be a refreshing, authentic, and wholesome little mountain town.
  • Businesses and homes that attract and support a wide range of people.
  • A thriving economy (not just based on tourism).
  • Well-maintained and connected neighborhoods where people of diverse backgrounds and incomes live together.
  • Active and well-functioning local citizen government: Diverse board and long-serving staff.
  • Infill development has reduced the number of vacant lots (infill versus greenfield).

I didn’t include “Natural river running through town (not encased in concrete)” in the items that might apply to Pagosa Springs, because our river running through downtown hasn’t been “natural” for many years. years now. The city government has spent millions of dollars turning the downtown river into a “natural theme park” featuring walking paths, pedestrian bridges, man-made improvements for fishing and boating, points viewpoints, plastic domed greenhouses and, of course, our own modest version of Fantasyland. Chateau.

Main Street USA will no doubt remain a “modern, clean and welcoming” faux city, with pedestrianized and car-free streets and sidewalks, where tourists stroll through the neighborhoods smiling. But the “economy” will always be based solely on tourism. No one will ever live in Disneyland. Employees will still live elsewhere and commute to work.

Other than the people sweeping the sidewalks and manning the fake window displays, the people walking through Main Street USA will always be tourists.

Main Street USA is a fine example of an authentic theme park town. It was designed to be just that, and that’s how it works. There will never be real neighborhoods or real homes where people of diverse backgrounds and incomes live together.

Pagosa Springs, meanwhile, has invested millions of dollars to make itself more and more like Disneyland, and less and less like a refreshingly authentic town.

How did it happen? And why?

I have my own theory on this. And, of course, the reasons why an authentic community would turn into a tourism-based theme park are complicated. They have a lot to do with the very human quest for “wealth” and “status” as primary goals in life, and seeing “community” as relatively unimportant.

But… is this the direction we want to continue to follow?

Read part six, tomorrow…

Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson began to share his opinions in the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 and cannot break this habit. He says that in Pagosa Springs, notices are like vans: everyone has one.

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