by Bob Reece
CUCHARA- In Wednesday’s meeting, Huerfano County Commissioners gave conditional approval to a revised plan to create a year round recreational facility at the site of the old Cuchara ski area. Commissioners will be asking their attorney to review the documents, but overall liked what they saw.
Bruce Cantrell outlined the new plan for the commissioners, stating the plan now includes only the 47 acres of recreational land and the area for the proposed lake at the base of the ski mountain. All of the land that would have been developed for homesites is now outside the current proposal.
The decision by the Commissioners means that organizers can now move forward with planning and design for the new resort, including placing a bond issue on the November ballot.
Cantrell reviewed the financial commitments for the project, which includes a combination of bonds, grants, loans, and charitable gifts from philanthropic organizations. Included within those commitments is a challenge grant in the amount of $7,000,000 from Bruce Cantrell and his wife, Joan. The Cantrells are asking for other matching grants from foundations and individuals.
Several Huerfano County citizens spoke in favor of the project. Patty MacDonald told the board that she and her husband, Malcolm have been coming to Cuchara for the past 14 years. “Every summer, we see a few more vacant stores, and a little less activity in La Veta and Walsenburg. We need money flowing in this county again.” No one was on hand to speak against the project.
Bob Baker, President of the La Veta/Cuchara Chamber of Commerce said, “This is great opportunity to revive the county. We are in full support.”
The new plan creates a new Parks and Recreation District at the base of the ski area, with a District Board that will oversee construction and buildout of the resort. Much of the existing resort infrastructure will be utilized in the plan, and new facilities, including the lake, a redesigned front entrance and other construction will complete the final design. An architectural committee will be responsible for ensuring that the design blends well with other structures and areas in the Cuchara Valley. A map of the area, the complete business plan and other information is available at the Cuchara Mountain Resort Website at http://www.cucharavalley.org/cucharamtnresort.html.
The Cuchara Mountain Resort will be managed by the Cuchara Valley Recreational Foundation, a non-profit group of volunteer business owners and residents of the valley. Their intent is to create a year round recreational venue complete with a mountain coaster, ziplines, a tubing hill and a host of other activities for kids, adults and families. In addition, a restaurant, conference center, and a 72 room hotel are being planned to attract corporate meetings, church groups and other events to the resort. Opening day could come as early as July of next year.
Officials estimate that up to 600 local jobs will be created as a result of the Foundation′s efforts, including opportunities at the resort, as well as jobs created in area restaurants, lodging, retail and other businesses throughout Huerfano County and Southern Colorado.
Audience applause broke out when the resort plan was approved. “This was a big step we took today,” Cantrell said. “And we′re excited to get things moving.”