Letter: Craig should look to pickleball as an economic driver | CraigDailyPress.com

Letter: Craig should look to pickleball as an economic driver

After reading the three page article, “Reinventing Craig” in the Grand Junction Sentinel and Craig Press, I feel compelled to make a suggestion. And while I commend the leaders of the Craig community for finally considering outdoor recreation as a viable economic endeavor as well as a tourist attraction, I would like to plant the seed regarding the “hottest” recreational demand in the state, country and world today — pickleball.

I feel knowledgeable in writing this letter having co-authored the “City of Craig Trails and Pedestrian Masterplan,” designed and built trails at Elkhead Reservoir and Cedar Mountain, and served as the city of Craig’s liaison for the Yampa River Legacy Project, which turned Elkhead into a state park as well as established legitimate river access sites on the Yampa River from Hayden to Deer Lodge Park.

Craig leaders were reluctant participants at best, but the long-term vision of then-City Manager Don Birkner was the impetus to making those above mentioned projects a reality. Sadly, Craig’s Trails Masterplan was never implemented; nor was the Yampa Valley Trail properly promoted. And pardon the cliché, but “That ship has sailed!”

The current ship upon which Craig and Moffat County should secure a spot is pickleball. This sport is growing exponentially all over the nation. Steamboat Springs is putting in a multi-million dollar facility to accommodate demand; Grand Junction will begin construction on 12 additional courts (adjacent to the current facilities) in 2023; two Grand Junction country clubs are working toward accommodating pickleball play; every Western Slope Recreation center is at full capacity when pickleball play is offered (with 10-30 people waiting to rotate in).

Currently, Craig has a burgeoning number of pickleball players and literally only four courts on Lincoln Street that are rapidly becoming “unplayable” because of poor surfacing. Dana and Darlene Gregory have done extensive research on costs of construction and have had numerous meetings and discussions with county commissioners and Craig Parks and Recreation to try and get new courts under construction at Loudy Simpson Park where there are already amenities and plenty of land. In other words, Craig is perfectly poised to make this recreational opportunity the “showpiece” of the community.

Pickleball truly embodies the “Build It and They Will Come” philosophy. If Craig and Moffat County truly want to put themselves on a map and increase visitation, then building state-of-the-art pickleball courts will do it. And as a collaborative effort between the county and the city, the project would be highly competitive in grant cycles. It would be a small tragedy to see Craig, once again “miss the boat!”

Terry L. Doherty

Former Craig Parks and Recreation Director

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