It looks like a busy year for the Hotchkiss Chamber, the town, and for the Valley as a whole. The Chamber is organizing the All Roads Lead to Hotchkiss Yard Sales in support of the May Hotchkiss Sheep Camp Stockdog Trials, the Ride the Rockies bicycle tour’s overnight stop in Hotchkiss in June and hosting lunch as the Colorado Grand returns in September. Additionally, the Chamber and Town will begin working together on a five-year Downtown and Highway Corridor Improvement Plan.
In the meantime, while the Valley’s coal mining industry looks to its possible future on Oak Mesa, the Valley will be considering its future as a whole as it moves forward into the Orton Heart and Soul of Community planning process and the projected growth of the North Fork Vision 2020 initiative. More big plans include the North Fork Creative Coalition and the latest development from the arts community, a proposal to establish the North Fork as a Colorado Creative District.
At the February 1 Hotchkiss Chamber meeting, Joanne Tullis of the Creamery Arts Center and NFCC asked for and received unanimous approval for sending a letter of support in applying to the State for an $8,000 Creative District grant for the North Fork. Tullis said that the money could be used for publishing a directory of creative artists in the Valley and as seed money for things such as public art projects.
The establishment of a Creative District would be an acknowledgement of the high concentration of artists and artisans of all types in the North Fork and a way to use the fact to draw visitors and spur the economics of the sector.
Tom Wills brought up the subject of a Downtown and Highway Corridor Improvement Plan for the town. The idea would be for the Town and Chamber (and Downtown Merchants Committee) to work together on a five-year plan to include improvements like trees, benches, planters and flowers and other “traffic calming” items.
The plan could also include input as a result of the Orton process and the establishment of a Creative District to include street art, for example. The goals of the improvement plan include aesthetics, pedestrian safety and comfort while bolstering the viability of retail business in the town.
Chamber President Nathan Sponseller reported that planning for the June 15 Ride the Rockies visit is proceeding. The event will provide a fundraising opportunity for local non-profits not only through food sales that evening but also from a homestay program being organized by Rhonda Duclo and Lenore Cambria. Riders will be able to stay the night in private homes for a fee benefiting specific groups. The County Fairgrounds have been reserved and Bill Long is booking the evening’s musical entertainment. The Chamber expects to break even on the event while gaining statewide media attention for the town and the Valley.
A Ride the Rockies information page is now live on the Hotchkiss Chamber’s website after the February 4 official announcement of the event route and host towns, including Hotchkiss.
In other discussion it was noted that three more members are needed on the Chamber’s board of directors including someone willing to be the Recording Secretary (take minutes of meetings).
Solicitations of members to share comments on the possible oil and gas leases near the town brought only two written responses. At the meeting the discussion of the issue demonstrated the variety of Chamber membership opinion. Some worried that gas development would negatively impact the arts and organic farming while others saw its potential to create jobs and economic development.
One BLM parcel in the proposed sale is adjacent to the town, Hotchkiss High School and the Crossroads Sports Complex. Chamber president, Nathan Sponseller later compiled the member comments and forwarded them to the BLM along with a statement saying that the Chamber was not taking an official position on the issue but was only facilitating the sharing of members’ comments.
There was a discussion of the January 21 Local Business Meets Local Government forum hosted by the Hotchkiss Chamber. It was agreed by those attending that the event was useful and successful, despite drawing less attendance than anticipated.
In the interest of having a joint Chamber social event this summer, Debbie Pennington Shaffer offered the red barn at Midway as a site. The officers will discuss the idea with the other chambers.
The Hotchkiss Chamber meets on the first Wednesday of each month in the basement of the Hotchkiss Public Library at 7:30 a.m.