Dolores tried to envision a future of increased commerce during a recent economic development workshop at Town Hall.
Some ideas considered more promotion as an outdoor adventure destination. They would include allowing off-highway vehicles to travel certain town streets, hosting an annual outdoor conference, installing game and fish processing station in the park and improving signage to direct visitors to attractions like McPhee Reservoir, Boggy Draw trails and the Dolores River.
“We have everything you need for outdoor adventure in Dolores with the river, lake, trails, hunting and mountains,” said Dolores Chamber Director Rocky Moss. “Let’s build that idea of Dolores as a destination, improve visibility and market three- to seven-day itineraries of things to do.”
The chamber supports the idea of adjusting town laws to allow off-highway vehicles such as ATVs in town. Montezuma County regulations allow them on county roads. Currently, OHVs, including ATVs, are not allowed to travel Dolores streets.
Town Board member Cody Folsom also believes allowing OHVs in town on certain routes is worth considering. He owns Dolores Outfitters, which provides OHV rentals. Folsom gave a presentation on the economic benefits of motorized recreation.
“The additional volume in town would be modest, not a huge amount like Moab or Silverton,” he said. “Allowing ATV use on certain routes in town benefits local riders and tourists. They could stop in town for supplies.”
County roads on either side of town allow ATVs, such as Road 31 accessing Granath Mesa and the national forest, “but they can’t come into town,” Folsom said.
Under Colorado law, towns and counties can allow OHV use within their jurisdictions with regulations. The county rule requires that the driver have a Colorado driver’s license and that the vehicle have a headlight and taillight.
OHVs generally are not allowed on state or federal highways. However, it is legal for them to cross a state or federal highway at intersections with county and city roads.
Dolores Outpost Motel owner Ginger McClellan-Swope also advocated for regulated OHV use in town.
“It would be nice to ride (an ATV) up to Boggy from town, rather than having to load it up on a trailer,” McClellan-Swope said. She said Dolores is a big draw for hunting, fishing and cross-country motorcyclists, and those recreationists are a big part of her customer base.
“Hunters buy groceries here, process game here, stay with us. They also visit before the season to scout,” McClellan-Swope said.
A wide-ranging discussion continued about marketing Dolores and supporting local businesses and new ideas.
“I’ve always thought Dolores is perfect for a water feature on the river,” said Montezuma County Commissioner Larry Don Suckla. “Creating a deep channel with a diversion structure would create a perpetual wave that people could surf. They do that in other river towns, and it draws in people.”
Susan Lisak said that attracting people from area towns to visit Dolores is also part of the formula.
She suggested signs at trailheads that show local businesses and other attractions. More signs directing people to the swimming area at “The Beach” are needed. Hunting, rafting and cycling guides should be contacted to inform them of what Dolores offers.
It was noted Dolores’ Boggy Draw mountain bike trails are popular locally but could be marketed to attract riders who visit biking towns such as Durango and Moab.
Cross-country adventure travel routes pass through Dolores, including the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route and Trans American Trail for motorcyclists, and the Western Express cross-country bicycle route. Promoting Dolores on those promotional materials was an idea.
Dolores also could benefit from a county plan to establish a motorized route through Sage Hen to McPhee Reservoir as part of a proposed spur to the Rimrocker Trail, which travels between Montrose and Moab, using existing dirt roads.
Crystal Anderson suggested pamphlets that show biking and hiking trails, fishing and hunting areas, and motorized routes. Town Board Trustee Val Truelsen said the town could benefit by promoting snowmobiling in the nearby San Juan National Forest.
Legalizing retail marijuana stores in Dolores was another idea. Having a processing facility for hemp, which was recently legalized nationally, also was suggested.
All the talk about new businesses is good, some said, but supporting current businesses is equally important.
For starters, everyone should make a bigger effort to support local businesses, said business owner Shawna Valdez.
“It’s important that we all support each other. If everyone spent just 10% more locally, it would make a huge difference. When local businesses are successful, it attracts others to start new ones,” she said.
Valdez said it is important to be a welcoming town.
“It’s the spirit of inviting others, where they see a reason to stop in town,” she said.
For example, the lake comes to the edge of town, but it is not promoted enough.
“When travelers see signs to the lake or river, a bathroom, a gravel parking lot with a trailhead, those are the places they want to stop.”