by Rick Langenberg:
If you can get visitors to stay in the Green Mountain Falls, Cascade and Chipita Park area for more than 24 hours, they will become hooked on the Ute Pass experience. Whether they enjoy the trails, the ideal summer weather, the lake, gazebo, regular events, the stellar restaurants and outdoor swimming pool, or access to other attractions, they are prime candidates for return trips. According to local civic leaders, GMF and its surrounding towns, even despite previous economic woes, is a destination mecca in the making.
This is part of a new burgeoning marketing campaign for a revived Ute Pass Triangle Chamber of Commerce– a key element of an economic push for the Green Mountain Falls/Cascade/Chipita Park region. An organizational meeting is planned for the new chamber group on May 16 at the Cascade Fire Department, at 7 p.m. All local residents are invited. During the meeting, an official board will be selected and the group will receive its marching orders. At the same time, the overall history of past chamber efforts will be discussed and new members will get a chance to sign-up. “We mainly want to get everyone in the community on the same page,” said David Shaw, pastor of the Church in the Wildwood, and the main facilitator for the group.
The idea of a revived chamber, along with a more aggressive marketing push for the region, has been a frequently discussed topic among the GMF Economic Sustainability Committee. For the last year and a half, GMF, with the help of a state grant, embarked on ambitious plans to generate more revenue and commerce for the town and to address growing short and long-term economic challenges. Voters responded positively to the group’s first request: the approval of a small mill levy hike to help the city government make ends meet. But during the formation of the economic committee, better ways to generate more tourism and visitor activity, while maintaining the character of the area, became hot rod subjects.
Despite a few disagreements on marketing techniques, the growing consensus among committee leaders favored reforming the Triangle Chamber of Commerce. Shaw says the current chamber has been dormant for some time. He attributes the chamber’s decline to problems associated with a few people having to grapple with an impossible work load in trying to organize events and market the area by themselves. “You are asking for a burn-out situation,” said Shaw. Plus, past economic trends have presented a few tricky curve balls for local civic leaders. Green Mountain Falls was historically a prime place for out-of-state families and retirees to spend two months or so at their summer cabin retreat. But a number of these residents passed away, and their kids never quite frequented the area like their parents, according to local leaders. In addition, traditional summer events often faced much more competition from surrounding communities than they did in the past.
As a result, GMF never quite regained its one-time tourism bonanza. But Shaw contends that a new infusion of energy, coupled with a variety of new projects, business pursuits and event plans, have given the region new-found life. “Since the six years I have been here, this has really been the most exciting time for Green Mountain Falls,” said the group facilitator. He cites such developments as the forthcoming re-opening of the Sally Bush Community building, a new community center pursuit next to the Pantry restaurant, lodging enhancements and new events for the Green Box Arts Festival and for the area. As for the new chamber, Shaw sees the group assuming the role as the main marketing arm of the region. He said they plan to debut a new interactive web site and touts the talents of several people in the group, such as Cameron Thorne and Amily Beidelman-Almy. With its new website, which will launch once the new group gets started, links will be provided to local lodging establishments, restaurants, businesses and other nearby chamber groups. Ultimately, the goal is to get people to stay in GMF, Cascade and Chipita Park for longer periods, noted the GMF pastor. “If we can get people to stay here for one day, they will fall in love (with this area). I am convinced of that. My wife asked me the other day, when we were by the lake in the Gazebo, ‘Is there a more peaceful place in the world?’ It is a great area.” Like many community leaders, Shaw isn’t afraid to tout the region’s potential as a destination area, especially with its prime network of trails and outdoor amenities, and location. “We would like to get people to stay in this area for several days,” added Shaw.
As for the often touchy subject of local events, the group facilitator believes the chamber will take more of a managerial role. The chamber itself, though, won’t get into the job of putting on events. Shaw sees the revived chamber as primarily assuming a pro-municipality stance. “We want the businesses here to do well and the towns to do well,” explained the group facilitator.