Community Ag Alliance: Yampa — A town in the re-making
I have friends who not-so-jokingly want to nominate me for “What Not to Wear,” the reality fashion makeover TV show that transforms participants from “dowdy to dashing,” as one web sit describes it. Luckily for me, the show is off the air, but the point is well taken.
Sprucing up from time to time is not a bad thing. And taking it a bit deeper, I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t thought at least a little about where they are in life and why, and where they want to be and how to get there.
Just like people, places evolve over the years, and the time comes when it’s necessary to sit down and evaluate reality. This is exactly what citizens from the Town of Yampa are doing, and I applaud them for their efforts.
To kick-start this process, there was a community outreach meeting held March 12 at the Ladies Aid Hall in Yampa. Speakers included Noreen Moore (Friends of Crossan’s), Tracy Barnett (MainStreet Steamboat Springs); Jane Blackstone (Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association) and Nancy Kramer (Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism).
The hall was packed with close to 70 people, remarkable for any town, but considering Yampa’s population is about 450, the turnout was even more stunning.
Attendees wrote down what they viewed as strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of Yampa, and I wanted to mention a few of my favorites.
As strengths, people noted the landscape with its beautiful scenery, mountains, rivers, clean air and quiet. This landscape lends itself to tourism, camping, hiking, biking, skiing, fishing and more.
I believe Yampa’s greatest asset is its people — real people who are really funny, really hard-working, really diverse (ranchers, farmers, business owners, artists, writers, location-neutral workers, retirees and everyone in between) and really devoted to helping their town reach another level of vibrancy.
The main weaknesses discussed were the lack of compelling signage to entice people from the highway into the town and the need for a community center to facilitate more social interaction and organized events. Also noted was the lack of a tax base, the somewhat run-down appearance in areas and the lack of a professional online presence or marketing.
But these weaknesses all represent opportunities — some of which can be addressed now and some which need significant planning. And these folks aren’t wasting any time.
At the meeting, people signed up for various project teams that address specific opportunities such as signage, flowers/planters, art/farmers/flea market and paint/fix-up. Leads for each committee have already been established, and all committee members are engaged and eager to start.
From an historic preservation standpoint, I think there is great opportunity for the town to pursue grants to conduct a survey that can inventory historic resources. Once the historic resources are identified, efforts could be made to nominate these places to an historic register and perhaps even pursue an historic register district. These processes can open property owners up to tax credits that can help offset costs for fixing up worthy homes and buildings.
Unlike many of the participants on “What Not to Wear,” an extreme makeover is not needed for Yampa. As with a movie re-make, the town just needs to take what’s already good and freshen it up a bit. There already is so much beauty and history threaded into the fabric of the community. All that’s needed is vision and a willingness to dig deep and get to work.
I left the meeting with a sense of anticipation and hope for Yampa. I couldn’t help but think of the Android slogan “Be together, not the same.” Here was a group of people representing all facets of life who all have one thing in common — the shared bond of caring and concern for their home and their willingness to become involved to make it a better place.
Meg Tully is a certified association executive, executive director of Historic Routt County and owner of Nonprofit Know How, which provides services to nonprofits of all shapes and sizes.
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