Some people live their lives reactively. They are essentially passive, waiting for circumstances to over-take them and then doing what they have to do to get by.
Other people live their live proactively. Deciding what kind of a life they want to have and then making conscious decisions which increase the odds that their chosen life will be realized.
Communities also tend to be either reactive or proactive. Colorado Springs is an example of a pro-active community. That city has decided that it wants its identity and economy to be defined primarily by the military-industrial complex and conservative religious organizations. As a result that city attracts many residents who find work in these sectors of the economy. Colorado Springs doesn’t just sit and wait for their military bases and their religious organizations to grow. They proactively work to make it happen. Just last month 70 representatives from their community traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with the Colorado Congressional Delegation and Department of Defense officials to lobby for the interests of their city. And they are currently in the process of hiring a DC firm at the cost of $100,000 a year to lobby in their behalf on a year-round basis.
Trinidad needs to decide if it wants to be a reactive, or a pro-active community. We have several unique economic opportunities before us if we decide to pro-actively pursue them. Las Animas County was recently identified by the State as the largest Renewable Resource Generation Development Area for both wind and solar energy in Colorado. This represents great promise for the economic future of our city and region. The promise of a growing alternative energy industry in Southeastern Colorado may well be one of the major reasons why Fort Carson has been trying to hard to take advantage of what they've called, "a window of opportunity" to acquire land in the region before wind farms and solar arrays are established.
Many of us who live here take the abundance of natural beauty that surrounds us for granted. But “there’s gold in them there hills!” Not only do we have beautiful mountain country in our area, but also spectacular red rock canyons and prairies. Las Animas County is an incredibly diverse outdoorsman’s paradise unlike any other locale in Colorado. Some of these natural assets are public lands. Others are on private property. But with the right kind of pro-active economic development all of these amazing resources could be developed.
Another promising area is the development of heritage tourism. The region of the Purgatoire River watershed is the cradle of Colorado history, with pre-historic people such as the Folsom Culture and historic tribes like the Jicarilla Apaches, the Ute and the Cheyenne, and the 19th century international trade and cultural exchange that occurred along the Santa Fe Trail and the birth of the cattle industry by such luminaries as Goodnight and Thatcher and Bloom. There are literally thousands of archaeological and historical sites all over our region. And there are also many thousands of curious people who’d pay good money to see them. While many of the attractions are outside of town, Trinidad also has a surprising number of museums and cultural venues for a community of its size. All of this is could become more of an attraction, supporting our food and lodging businesses. But we’d need to pro-actively help that to happen.
I have personal witnessed both the interest of outsiders in our region and willingness of private land owners to welcome them onto their property. Over the past three years I have coordinated painting outings into the historic ranch lands and canyon county in our region with over 60 artists from all over the state. Trinidad has also developed an identity as an “arts community.” Attracted by the affordable housing and studio space, the rich history and culture, and the scenic beauty, nationally recognized artists have found their way to Trinidad. We are now the home of many visual, dramatic, musical and literary artists and arts-organizations. We could pro-actively build upon this by offering incentives to artists who can no longer afford to live and create in places like Santa Fe, by subsidizing studio spaces within our stock of under-occupied downtown buildings.
But there is one big obstacle in the way of the future development of any and all of these promising options for our future. We are in competition with the pro-active vision of Colorado Springs for the future use of the land in Las Animas County. Colorado Springs’ vision of the future involves the growth of military training and in their minds, that requires the acquisition of more land. The real estate around Colorado Springs’ military instillations has become very populated and expensive. But they view us down here in Las Animas County as basically passive regarding our current and future economic development as it relates to our land.
Some might say, “why not have it all? Agriculture, alternative energy, heritage tourism, outdoor recreation, the arts AND militarization? But there are intrinsic conflicts between live-fire, military training and any of the other options. It is pretty obvious that you can’t raise cattle or put up solar arrays and wind-mills, or go out bird-watching, or painting or hiking on land that is exploding with weapons and being buzzed by military aircraft. The military is currently engaged in fighting against wind farms in areas where training is conducted because wind generators represent obstructions to low-altitude flight training and produce false, ghost-radar images. According to the New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/business/energy-environment/27radar.html
So we have two cities whose visions of the future depend upon the lands of Las Animas County. Colorado Springs is proactively working with legislators and Pentagon bureaucrats to try and make their vision happen. The people of Trinidad should also become proactive in working to make our vision a reality. As the old saying goes, “Use it or lose it.” We need to start thinking and behaving pro-actively.