Questions about branding, airport entrance projects
[ By Katherine Nettles ]
Gunnison County’s local marketing district (LMD) agreed to a funding increase for the Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP) on April 6, but did so with a request for more involvement in a branding/place making project around the Gunnison Valley that some of the money will fund. County commissioners, who also act as the LMD board, unanimously passed a $350,000 funding increase to TAPP’s budget to make up for TAPP’s earlier budget cuts during the pandemic and the LMD’s budget surplus during a banner year for lodging tax revenue.
“At the county’s request, we budgeted down 5 percent because of COVID,” said TAPP executive director John Norton. “Lodging revenues came in at +11.5 percent. In the history of the TA, there’s never been such a spread between a funding request and revenue results.”
Norton presented the funding request on March 2, describing how the majority of the money would be used for winter snow marketing and “Place making” at the Gunnison-Crested Butte (GUC) airport and other areas that anchor an identity for the valley. A smaller share of the funds would go to the ICELab and the Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee.
Commissioners had a more involved conversation with Norton and TAPP board chairperson Bill Ronai on April 6, particularly about the place-making project. Ronai described two specific elements: first, there would be a mural on the prominent outside wall of the Twisted Fork restaurant building in the Gunnison business district. The wall overlooks IOOF Park on the corner of Main Street and Virginia Avenue, and the TAPP board also plans to rejuvenate the park. Ronai said the mural would have elements that are “likely celebrating the biking here,” as well as trails.
The second element of the project involves the arrival experience at the airport, possibly with another mural. Ronai said the airport arrival experience is still in the early phase of being formed, but may have opportunities for public art that is “on brand.”
“It may take some time and even flow into next year in terms of coming up with a solution that works for everyone,” he said.
Commissioners encouraged TAPP to include them and the public on the branding projects.
BOCC chairperson Jonathan Houck said the expectation of the board is that the communication between the board and TAPP will continue. “We’re not here to micromanage but we are here to direct,” he said.
“Around the place making piece, I think it is important that there is some outreach to really find what would help visitors and locals transition through the airport,” said commissioner Roland Mason.
Commissioner Liz Smith mentioned the lack of guidance for airport arrivals to the center of the town, showing “this is the way” and suggested signage will be a part of the project. She was also surprised to hear the theme for the mural at the Twisted Fork had already been decided, and encouraged a public input process.
“Place making is really personal. And I think we all have really strong feelings and associations about what Gunnison is to us, and this is right in the heart of downtown. Downtown has been trying to make more of a thriving arts district,” she said. “I feel like people want to have a say in what that mural reflects in our community and who we are collectively… I think that having a public input process where people can kind of say this is what we think Gunnison County represents would help.”
Norton said he thought that was a good point, and would reach out to plan for that input aspect.
Representatives from the Gunnison Chamber of Commerce said in the Zoom meeting comments that a committee had been formed around IOOF Park that could be pulled back together, allowing the Downtown Vibrancy Committee to also be a part of the conversation.
Public comment came from Dave Taylor as well, stating that the TAPP funding increase could be better spent on the chambers of commerce throughout the valley which are dealing with significant visitation increases.
“They could use that money now,” he wrote.
Commissioners all voted in favor of the TAPP funds, but Smith emphasized that her approval was with the expectation that a relationship of trust and collaboration would continue. “I’ve seen TAPP be really receptive to our feedback,” she said.
The 2021 TAPP budget is now approved for up to $2,390,590.