Will the City of Trinidad be ready for what’s to come? The New Elk Coal mine on State Highway 12 is reportedly reopening this summer, and the new Fishers Peak State Park will be opening more recreation space in the future — and what about the city’s growing art scene with its live-in studios for creatives?

At the last city council work session of 2020 in December, City Councilmember Erin Ogletree introduced findings she gathered from a “community readiness” qualitative study, requested by Mayor Phil Rico.

“I really enjoyed the conversations I had during this study,” Ogletree told the council of her informal discussions with people of varying interests.

As part of her study, she also reviewed the Trinidad 2020 Business Survey Analysis done by Corazon de Trinidad Historic Main Street and released in early summer. Seventy-eight local business managers or owners completed the survey.

“Generally, the city is going to have to be very flexible,” Ogletree said of the future. “We need an approach that is much more pro-active as people come to the city. We can’t do the bare minimum.”

She made it clear to the council, however, that her report was intended to be just a starting point for discussions in the different subject areas in the document, and other councilmembers might have different points of view.

However, the town does need to have a vision for the future.

“We are going to have to work very hard for all that is coming,” Ogletree said, “and Trinidad will change in some ways.”

Mayor Rico said that the document she created will be “very useful in the future.”

“It is so thorough. We can use it as a road map,” he said. “It gives us a good path to follow.”

Some common themes summarized and shortened from the report follow:

Infrastructure 

- Road repairs, starting with roads most used by both residents and visitors. 

- Broadband internet access, being reliable and able to handle increasing traffic.

- Proactive approach toward water and sewer deficiencies, including improving reliability of electric power.

Public safety 

- Make law enforcement actions and crime prosecutions more visible. 

- Pay police officers as well as possible and create reasons for recruits to stay.

- Put parking lights in the downtown lot under I-25. 

- Make the Riverwalk area more inviting to residents and visitors. 

- Address homelessness issues.

Parking and Public Transportation

- Utilize the downtown parking area under I-25 more effectively. 

- Install metered parking with limits in high-demand areas downtown. 

- Discourage business owners and their employees from parking all day in front of their businesses.

- Build a downtown parking garage. 

- Transport people from residential hubs and hotels to and from downtown/ shopping centers by microbus. 

- Increase private transportation options via providing incentives for Uber and Lyft drivers.

Housing options 

- Encourage affordable residential development for new residents. 

- Use the Anti-Dilapidation Ordinance to deal with structures needing maintenance/possibly partner with Trinidad State Junior College trade programs. 

- Promote real estate land trusts/cooperatives making home ownership more attainable.

Customer Service 

- Improve consistency of service at local hospitality industries, including hotels and restaurants.

- Offer hospitality training in all areas, including retail, thus, improving city’s reputation in these areas.

Restaurants 

- Have more food choices in restaurants, including locally produced food options. 

- Encourage a limited number of national/regional chains with 24-hour or expanded-hours restaurants to locate to Trinidad, drawing people off I-25.

Night life

- Encourage safe, fun places for people to frequent in the evenings, such as breweries or wine bars.

Retail Options 

- More sporting goods, every-day clothing and food store choices needed.

Riverwalk and Recreation 

- Make Trinidad a destination recreation/resort town by linking the Riverwalk to area parks.

City Government 

- Rethink how it functions by ensuring it is working efficiently and by identifying departments where more staff might be necessary. 

- Welcome development and growth by encouraging new businesses, developers, contractors and homeowners when they need help or ask questions. 

- Assist established hurting businesses; value businesses that historically and consistently generate tax income. 

- Maximize the opportunity to draw visitors from the new Fisher’s Peak State Park to downtown to eat, shop and stay overnight. Extend stay in Trinidad. 

- Show and tell what Trinidad offers; have clear signage about where to go and what to do. 

- Educate the community about the city’s boards and commissions — what does each do and how does one qualify to apply.

Conclusion

Finally, some respondents want to tone down the “Trinidad is a quirky place” messaging. They want people to know that everyone is welcome here.

Although Ogletree did use a bit of the Main Street business survey analysis in her report, it is worth noting the main results of that document. The three top challenges local businesses reported are seasonal swings in revenues (55 percent), not enough volume of sales (39 percent) and the need for better broadband/internet access (31 percent).

Wally Wallace, the city’s economic development coordinator, said that what needs to be dealt with after the pandemic leaves is the seasonal swings in revenue.

“We need to drive more traffic into the downtown, but with the pandemic, we’re supposed to keep people away,” Wallace said. “That is the biggest complaint, the drop-in revenue.”

He also said that he was surprised so many complained about parking downtown. And, he noted, some of the wishes for a parking garage is not financially feasible at this time.

Other notable findings include that business owners have difficulty to recruit and retain “motivated and reliable employees; to recruit and retain qualified employees; and to provide employee benefits.” Respondents are also concerned about employees’ and potential employees’ ability to find suitable housing and childcare.

According to the study, however, more than half the respondents were optimistic or very optimistic about Trinidad’s economic future. Newer businesses were slightly more optimistic. No respondents reported, however, that Trinidad was a poor place to do business.

As the New Year begins, Councilmember Ogletree stressed that the city cannot go backward.

“Living things need to grow,” she explains. “If you don’t grow, you die.”

Mayor Rico said he has forwarded Ogletree’s information to the partners involved in the creation of Fishers Peak State Park, so they have that knowledge as they create the park’s master plan.

Also, Las Animas County received a $150,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs in December to study the local infrastructure, and the study should be helpful for that work, too, he said. 

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