by Kairina Danforth,

Mayor, Town of Crestone

Once upon a time, we were a small town, where people walked in the streets (where cars should go) and parked on the side of the street (where people should walk).  Time went by.  More people came to live or visit.  We were still a small town but what we had was an auto-centric, strip-mall feel where people drove in, parked, shopped, and drove away.

What we wanted was pedestrian-friendly access for all our businesses and our charter school.  A place for mothers to push their babies in strollers, for wheelchair access to sidewalks.

The Town partnered with ScSEED to begin development of a downtown revitalization project. Public meetings were held with business and property owners in the commercial district and the Crestone Board of Trustees.  A committee was formed for the Crestone Redevelopment Project, (called Refine the Vision Committee) which later became the Pedestrian Pathway Network Project (PPNP) Task Force, consisting of representatives from the Town Planning Commission, Trustees, business and property owners, and residents of the town, the Baca, and the unincorporated Saguache County residents.  Meetings were held over a two-year period, ideas were gathered, and an enthusiastic vision developed.

We realized that the public infrastructure of the town was largely undeveloped.  Existing public safety issues included unsafe pedestrian routes, inadequate handicap access, significant infrastructure issues, extensive drainage problems and inefficient lighting.  Parking was undefined.  There were no sidewalks, curbs or gutters, and businesses were not easily accessible.

We decided to concentrate improvements to maximize impact, including street improvements that would slow traffic and improve safety. We wanted to emphasize beautification to increase “linger time” in the business district and to establish anchor features (or events) to act as social magnets for community use and to capitalize on the existing charm of the central town park.  We believed that completing redevelopment of the commercial district would provide a strong, sustainable platform for future economic growth and community socialization, as well as address existing public safety problems.

The Town partnered with ScSEED  to begin development of the downtown revitalization project.  In addition to the Town’s initial contribution and moneys raised by ScSeed, funding contributors to the project during this time included Saguache County and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

Funding requests were submitted for PPNP  Phase I improvements to provide new infrastructure, including restructuring and resurfacing of the streets, adding drainage culverts to address storm water runoff issues, adding handicapped accessibility ramps to improve safety and accessibility at all crosswalks, and constructing pedestrian routes to separate pedestrians from traffic.

Beautification & business

Additionally, the improvement would include benches, planters and landscaping. The PPNP also includes development of the park area, part of which was donated to the Town for this project by a local resident. These additional improvements address the economic development and community needs, by providing an incentive for new or existing businesses to locate in the commercial district. That would attract tourists and community members alike, creating a more pedestrian-friendly business district and increasing the economic capacity of the area.  The business district is fortunate to have a number of historical assets and inherent charm. Completion of the project can provide a strong, sustainable platform for future economic growth and improved quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

The Town has received a Community Block Development Grant to support the PPNP funding requirements and has also applied for a Safe Route to Schools grant.   Unfortunately that funding was not received and the current project is, of necessity, focused on the infrastructure issues. That has forced postponement of the beautification aspects.  We have to build the foundation first, which means storm drainage, curbs and gutters, infrastructure.  Now we can move forward with requests to fund the balance of the project.

All of the design and oversight is provided by Burt Wadman, Architect, Urban Designer and Project Director.  His architectural expertise and unstinting assistance exceeds any level we might have envisioned.  For that we can only say thank you, Burt.   Wadmand collaborated with the Civil Engineer for the Project, Martin Reynolds, of Reynolds Engineering Company of Alamosa.  The General Contrator on the project is Alcon Construction, out of Alamosa.  The Town is extremely fortunate to have this excellent team of experienced professionals on the job.

Work is proceeding at a good pace, and the goal is to complete the work in time for the 4th of July festivities.  The project is in the heart of downtown circulation, but Alcon is making every effort to keep our streets open as much as possible to minimize inconvenience to residents and visitors.  Drivers must be very careful in negotiating the obstacles, and this is greatly appreciated by the construction crew.

There’s an old saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats”.   The tide is rising in our small town.  We can see it in our new businesses and existing businesses, in our burgeoning creative arts district.  We can feel fortunate for the funding that’s been received as we already are looking for  more.    And, finally, we can thank ourselves as we look forward to the beginning of a more pedestrian-friendly environment inviting us to shop, to linger, and to enjoy the unique charm of our altogether unique Crestone community, described recently as “a place of the heart”.