John Husband: Loving Craig to death
June 13, 2014
To the editor:
Have I told you that I love this place? If I haven't, it might be because I don't know you, or haven't talked with you, or it just hasn't come up in our conversations. But I do. I really love this place. Beautiful wide open spaces, mountains, desert, canyons, rivers, lakes and streams. Hard-working people who also appreciate all we have here. Good paying jobs in the mines and power plants. Fantastic opportunities for hunting, fishing, boating, camping, skiing, photography, four wheeling, biking, snowmobiling and hiking. A beautiful new hospital and community college. Newly refurbished schools. Some great community festivals. A beautiful rural agricultural setting. Service organizations dedicated to making life better here in Craig, America.
But it seems lately that many, no, most of us who live here are concerned about Craig's future — and for good reason. Seems there's a new vacant building in town every week. The housing market is in a slump and new construction has been nearly non-existent. The hospital and college campuses seem to be underutilized. We may have lost the proposed new solar garden, along with the jobs and tax revenues it would create, to Routt County (although I hope this one can be salvaged). And there is a great uncertainty in the air regarding the future of coal and power production. Heavy stuff. No wonder we are concerned about Craig's future.
Recently, I participated in a Craig Daily Press "Coffee and a Newspaper" discussion on topics related to improving the outlook for Craig. The views and suggestions covered a wide range of ideas. Sprucing up the downtown. Sprucing up the entrance areas to the town. Improving recreational opportunities with trails or other facilities. Making the town more appealing to young people. Developing and implementing well thought out and effective planning and zoning regulations to make Craig more appealing, and then enforcing them. Using CNCC as a magnet for new manufacturing or other businesses by providing targeted training. Building a senior center. Building a recreation center. Boosting confidence in medical care in Craig. Boosting the arts. Incentives to new businesses to locate here. Fighting to preserve our coal and power production jobs. I guess I've come to the conclusion that we really need to keep our collective minds open. If we keep doing what we've always done, we'll always get what we've always gotten. Should we do everything we can to preserve our coal and power production jobs? You bet. They are our economic anchors. Should we fight to preserve viable agricultural operations? Of course, they provide much of the wide open spaces that characterize the area. But we should also be open to new ways to bring economic development to Craig. To make it more attractive to new business, to new people who might want to locate here. Diversify our economy. If coal and power production ultimately decline, we'll need something else. If coal and power production remain strong and viable, and we have a more diversified economy to boot, well, that would be great, wouldn't it?
There are many groups and individuals working on ideas to make Craig a more desirable place to locate. Downtown improvement, senior center, recreation center, river recreation enhancements, new entertainment opportunities — I wish them the best in their efforts. Some of them may ultimately bear fruit. In the meantime, let's all do the small things we can. Let's keep our homes and businesses well maintained and attractive. Wave to each other and say "hello."
In business, provide service with a smile, make the customer feel like they are truly welcome so they will want to return. Participate in some of the efforts to improve Craig's future. Keep our minds open to new ideas. Get involved. Be part of the solution. Make Craig a better place. A lot of us love this place. I just don't want us to one day realize that we've loved it to death.