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for people who care about the West

Silverton needs a new vision


Jonathan Thompson’s otherwise excellent article about Silverton, Colorado’s environmental and economic woes missed a key point about the town’s economic problems (“The Gold King Reckoning,” HCN, 5/02/16). All tourist economies are not created equal, and Silverton, for whatever reason, has failed to develop tourism that can sustain the town as an alternative to past mining. The Durango/Silverton antique railroad comes to town twice a day in summer and discharges a variety of people for an hour or two. Off-road vehicle enthusiasts ride their ATVs and dirt bikes up and down Main Street and on nearby BLM and national forest lands all summer long. That’s mostly it. Tourism works when people come to a location and stay for more than one night. Durango, Telluride and Santa Fe have strong tourist economies because people stay in nice places and spend money on a variety of activities for many days. The off-roaders who dominate Silverton every summer are a decidedly low-budget crowd, many staying in their travel trailers and spending little money. Worse, the noise and dust from their vehicles probably repels many people who might want to enjoy the incredible mountain setting with its fascinating Victorian architecture and history. In Silverton, restaurants come and go like snowdrifts and there are few places to spend the night. The town has great resources for a tourist economy based on quiet recreation, historic preservation and wilderness, but developing such an economy will require a new vision and investment.     

Tom Ribe 
Santa Fe, New Mexico