Cortez is a gem.
The people who have lived here their whole lives know this. Children who grow up here have amazing parks to play in against mountainous backdrops; tourists glimpse the clarity of Cortez and hope to return again soon.
However, every gem has its flaws. Sometimes it takes an expert to discover them.
Residents of Cortez were invited to take photos of various sites, buildings, streets and neighborhoods to show off the beauty of Cortez or to recognize its faults.
That was the premise for the Heart and Soul Project photo display, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, that ran at the Cortez Cultural Center from Sept. 7 to Sept. 28. The residential experts took to the streets to mark their feelings about their town.
We saw many things that included keeping our Main Street alive and accessible to businesses, said Shawn Collins, executive director of the cultural center. Things to keep the local economy alive.
One photo identified the vacant stores along Main Street. Their empty windows beckoned for attention but they also give an impression of a dilapidated community. One posted suggestion was to offer these storefronts up to artists; to use these empty spaces for galleries so wanderers have something fresh to look at until a new business can occupy them.
This could help people to see our downtown as vibrant and that we have an active artist community, Collins said.
Collins also serves on the Community Advisory Team for the Heart and Soul Project. She felt the display was well received and noted that the communitys feedback was very important.
What was most exciting about the show was, we werent just looking for what they loved or didnt love but for what needs to be improved, Collins said. We were looking for constructive criticism from the community.
Some photos included vacant, graffitied buildings in neighborhoods or along Broadway that could potentially be remodeled and used for meetings, dances or art galleries. There was a great amount of want for more farmers markets, art and music in the community.
She stressed the importance of a good economic situation so people can and will want to live here. But she found that the community may feel that safety and security is more important. Giving the upper hand to the people is what will help them identify problem areas.
The most points awarded to Cortez, was its wonderful parks system, recreational resources and daily occurrences with wildlife.
We want to keep access to open spaces for recreational opportunities but at the same time improve job opportunities, Collins said. Especially to keep youth here or get them to come back once theyve been out in the world for a bit.
Collins said the comprehensive plan, designed by Heart and Soul, is about putting these suggestions into action for people who desire value and growth of Cortez. Sometimes, they come across discouraged citizens who feel their input is not valuable because nothing comes of it.
We want to make things happen so they dont stagnate, Collins said. We want to hear from people who wouldnt normally be involved in the planning process to figure out how we can make it better.
The Heart and Soul committee will continue to hold events throughout the community until the projects end in January of 2013. From there, the committee will work to form and initiate plans from the suggestions of residents.
Check cortezheartandsoul.com for more information about upcoming events and planning meetings.