Silver City, Economic Development, Part 2

In my column August 4, NO! To Q of L Part 6, I listed the numerous negatives that make New Mexico an unlikely home for new businesses.  Fortunately, Silver City has some outstanding attractions to draw both tourists and retirees, not a mutually exclusive crowd (attract tourists, make ’em want to stay), which if aggressively promoted, can make Silver City a prospering community in spite of being in New Mexico.

Let’s look at a few of these assets that I think Silver City should promote and develop. You may have others.

1. The Big Ditch is unique to Silver City, a geologic wonder that is, indirectly, manmade.  I would like to know what it would cost to turn the Big Ditch into a little Catwalk, i.e. a tourist attraction with suspended walkways,  educational laminates, etc.  (The Town of Silver City has a Big Ditch Master Plan, which is a multiyear plan to integrate the Big Ditch into a local trails system.  Nice, but not enough.)

2. The murals in the downtown area are very attractive. How about adding another half dozen or so to both Hudson and Bullard Streets?  I’d donate to a mural fund. Rome is the “City of Fountains, Silver City can be the “City of Murals.” (Kudos to those painting the stores on Bullard!)

3. Turn Bullard Street into a “Half Mile Art Gallery.”  The two most unattractive features in Silver City seven years ago were the old hospital building, since razed, and the empty store fronts on Bullard, even worse today. A year ago I asked Nick Seibel, then manager of Silver City MainStreet, if it would be possible to use the empty windows to display art work, which realtor Cissy McAndrew was doing in an empty building she had for sale. It really looked quite nice. Nick said the problem with doing it up and down Bullard is that the owners of the buildings would have to agree to allow access, and then whoever was in charge would have to assume liability for vandalism, breaking and entering, etc.  This is a problem that the City Council could address.  Last October the Council passed a law requiring absentee owners to pay $35 for fire and safety inspections.  I would think suspension of that fee in return for downtown art gallery participation would be a start.

4. This area is a hiker’s paradise.  Take a look at just about any U.S. Geological Survey map (a.k.a. USGS Quadrangle, or “Quad” map), and you will see miles and miles of trails and four-wheel drive roads that go through our fantastic national forests.  Minnesota is the “Land of a Thousand Lakes.”   Grant County can be the “Land of a Thousand Trails.”

5. The geology of this area is fascinating and very diverse.  A few years ago, Professor of Geology Mary Dowse at WNMU gave a summer class, “Geology of Grant County.”  I would recommend the Chamber of Commerce, or somebody, hire Mary to have that course every summer, and call it “Grant County Geology For Newcomers.”  I’ll take it every year. Mary is a treasure.

6.  Promote Silver City as a summer home for retirees in Texas and Arizona.  I recently met a couple from Sun City, AZ , who spend their summers here to escape the Phoenix heat.  The same would certainly be true for retirees in Green Valley, AZ, El Paso, TX, etc.

7.  Advertise the Solar Carport, the Waste Water Treatment Plant Solar Array, and the presence of a four-year university. All of these indicate Silver City is a “progressive” community, something that will attract retiring professors from up north. They may not be engineering professors, but history, sociology, and others will be just as welcome.

If I were an advertising copy writer, my cup would runneth over:

Visit Silver City, New Mexico’s City of Murals, home of The Big Ditch Park, gateway to the Gila Cliff Dwellings and the living ghost towns of Pinos Altos and Mogollon, in the center of Grant County, New Mexico’s Land of a Thousand Trails.  Where all the children are above average —OOPS! Sorry, Garrison.

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