Economic action plan now on the table

Groups identify overall goals

Community members, business owners and Town officials presented the first draft of the Community Action Plan in December, moving one step closer to developing a master plan and vision, according to Crested Butte town manager Susan Parker.



More than 20 individuals met early last month to develop the Community Action Plan, the second step of the Town’s economic development assessment. The Town began the assessment in June after receiving a grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
Parker says the assessment is a tool for the Town to determine community needs and what steps should be taken to address those needs. She adds the Community Action Plan is a document outlining those specific tasks.
“Overall [the plan] gives direction to those groups who have a vested interest in the community and want to accomplish something to benefit the community,” Parker says.
 The Community Action Plan addresses the four areas of concern identified during the first phase of the process, including tourism development; business development; community facilities, amenities and services; and infrastructure, development and transportation.
Participants identified not only the action steps but also the parties responsible, a timeline and needed resources.
According to Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce director and assessment group leader Christi Matthews, the Community Action Plan serves as a tool for accountability.
“What I love about the document is that it really puts (our goals) in black and white and gives the community something to look at,” Matthews says. “It’s really great to have a document formed by the community to hold the community accountable.”
Matthews says the Community Action Plan stage has been the most critical thus far because the focus was on solutions rather than the problems. Matthews was the group leader for the Sustainable and Diverse Economic Development assessment group, which developed six action steps for achieving an economic vision for the future of Crested Butte. She said the group set a tentative meeting schedule, will collect economic data and hopefully present a draft of the vision by June, with implementation beginning soon after.
“We know what our concerns are, so it’s great that our efforts are now focused on developing workable solutions,” Matthews said.
Group leader and director of the Crested Butte Center for the Arts Pat Crow says her team also focused on results and says the Facilities, Amenities and Services for the Community assessment group developed several action steps for addressing funding needs.
“As a group we were very productive,” Crow says. “We came up with a timeline and assignments to explore public funding for arts and recreation because we realize facilities that are on the planning table will not come to fruition without sustainable and dependable operating funds.”
Crow says the group is excited about the action plan and is looking forward to reviewing its successes when the state advisory group returns in June to assess the Town’s progress.
Group leader and director of the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association Jane Chaney says the Community Action Plan is definitely achievable and will help the Town formulate a vision and mission for a successful and sustainable economy.
Tourism, Chaney says, is an integral part of that vision and so her team, the Sustainable Tourism Development assessment group, discussed action steps for strengthening the industry. One example of the group’s work includes the action step to develop a shoulder season marketing strategy.
“The Town recognizes tourism as one of, if not the most, important economic engines, so talking about tourism is critical for the long term viability of the community,” Chaney says. “Our group looked at all the opportunities available to the town and how it relates to tourism.”
Chaney says she believes the economic assessment process has been well organized and will help with the success of the plan. Although her group was focused on tourism, the process has integrated the four different issue areas to develop common goals, she says.
Town Council member Skip Berkshire and group leader of the Infrastructure Development and Transportation assessment group says he’s hesitant to jump to conclusions about the potential success of the action plan, but believes if the community stays involved the Community Action Plan can be effective.
“My real hope is to tap into the community more because the Town staff and council can’t do it all and if we do that it will be a much better product in the end,” Berkshire says, referring to his group’s action steps addressing parking, Internet services, and a gray water system.
 Berkshire’s group also developed six action steps for developing a master plan for the Town to guide growth and development. The action steps include hiring a third party to facilitate the development of the plan, working with already existing committees to coordinate efforts and assisting current initiatives.
Parker agrees the Community Action Plan will serve as a catalyst for the Town’s visioning and master plan and is optimistic that master plan process will begin in the spring.

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