Residents can’t change the area’s geographic location, but they’ll continue to put pressure on natural resources.
That was the consensus Friday among a handful of residents addressing the city’s location, setting and climate. They met at the first of three meetings dubbed “Reach the Peak: Choose Your Future, Cortez,” which aims to draft a community-action plan for the Heart & Soul of Cortez program. The final plan is due Feb. 22.
Launched in January 2012, Heart & Soul of Cortez received a grant to reach out to community members in new and innovative ways to develop a road map for the city’s future. With community input, the program has identified 10 major values that local residents deemed important.
“The area’s location, setting and climate has continuously rose to the top of all our community surveys,” said volunteer adviser M.B. McAfee.
McAfee led a unit discussion at Friday’s meeting to examine the past, current and future directives related to the area’s natural resources and beauty. The handful of residents weighing the topic agreed that environmental policy decisions were enacted without much foresight 20 years ago. At the time, there were also fewer pressures on area resources.
“No one thought much about the environment,” one woman said. “Recycling wasn’t even mentioned.”
Now, the group agreed some improvements have been made because of increased awareness. People are more mindful of their footprints, but as the population rises, greater tensions emerge.
“People want to protect their personal rights, but they forget about their personal responsibilities,” one man said.
Looking two decades ahead, the group was concerned more and more pressures would be placed on natural resources, and fears reside the area could face dire straits if the status quo remains. McAfee’s faction agreed that the city must take a leadership role with other agencies in order to protect the area’s natural beauty.
The remaining nine Heart & Soul values being examined over the course of the next two weeks include the city’s people; community activities; community networks; diversity and cultural history; small-town charm; church and home life; parks and recreation; business and agriculture; and education. Meetings will be held at the Cortez Rec Center on Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, starting at 5:30 p.m.
Funded by the Orton Family Foundation, the Heart & Soul program collected more than 900 surveys from the community to determine what residents love and would like to change about Cortez. Municipal planning and building director Kirsten Sackett said volunteers have worked countless hours to obtain insight from every resident.
“After evaluating the top 10 local values, the community action plan will serve as a guide to implementing changes,” Sackett said. “We’re planning to walk the talk.”