The San Luis Valley (SLV) is described as having many challenges. Among them, and perhaps the most sobering, is that the SLV is home to two of the poorest counties in the state (one of which ranks nationally).
Though the data paints a gloomy picture, ask the strong and proud people living in the Valley and you may get a different answer. The San Luis Valley is a culturally rich, diverse and hard-working community that stands together. While there may be challenges to living in the San Luis Valley, we have found partnerships, opportunities and resources to meet and improve many of those challenges.
The San Luis Valley is traditionally known as an agriculture community, with approximately $500M contribute to the economy annually. Hemp growth and processing have become more prevalent in the SLV recently and is being thought of as an alternative crop that grows well in the valley’s climate.
Empty buildings have been a concern in nearly every downtown area in the Valley for many years; however, it seems there is a recent spark of hope.
Del Norte has led the way for the Valley in attracting re-development and new businesses with the restoration of the Windsor Hotel a few years ago, the opening of Three Barrel Brewing and most recently, the opening of the Colorado Grille and Tap House. Additionally, a new boutique motel just opened and was refurbished from a run down, abandoned motel that had sat empty for many years. Now, the “Mellow Moon” is an eclectic and modern accent to help accommodate Del Norte’s growing tourism industry.
Alamosa has seen recent closures on its main street, but there have been new beginnings as well. The Purple Pig Pizzeria, a new Italian restaurant, Woody’s Q Shack BBQ and other businesses are slated to fill the recently vacated buildings.
Monte Vista celebrated the sale of a historic cornerstone of their downtown, the Fassett Building, which is being refurbished into a multi-use site. There is also a new women’s and men’s clothing boutique downtown in a beautifully remodeled building. Another long-empty building on the main block of downtown was recently donated to the urban renewal authority to be used as a business incubator to help spark downtown business development for the City of Monte Vista.
Center’s former Frontier Drive-In is being completely renovated to accommodate RV’s, tents, and yurts which are being built on premises for an outdoor family vacation experience. The experience includes a newly upgraded drive-in theater for evening movies.
Creede is always booming in the summer months with the Creede Theater, the mining museum, and community events such as the Fourth of July celebration and the Chocolate Festival. The community’s outstanding medical and dental facilities are a tremendous asset to their remote area, including the Rio Grande Family Clinic, Public Health and Mineral County Dental.
La Jara is showing signs of greater activity as well, with a busy Subway Sandwich Shop, grocery outlet, and dollar store. Community events that bring more people out for outdoor activities like the Great Pumpkin Toss are growing in participants every year. The city is planning for future growth and seeking ways to provide for more aordable housing in the city of La Jara. The SLV Health-Conejos County Hospital recently had a grand opening, celebrating a multi-million dollar renovation of the hospital and completion of an emergency room upgrade.
The “mystic” SLV, the adjective referring to the sense that there is more than meets the eye, is home to many tourism-related events highlighting the Valley’s rich heritage. While the data appears gloomy, I see hope in the eyes of community members daily and it reminds me how thankful I am for this community.
by Kathy Rogers