Saturday, June 20, 2015

Are You a Cave Person?

Windows off Main
Trinidad, Colorado

Every dying town has its cave people.

I have been doing research on the Village of Angel Fire, New Mexico for an article I just finished writing. I live five miles south of the village near what was once the town of Black Lake. It once had a store and a school and a church and a post office. Now Black Lake is where they shot the Montana scenes for Lonesome Dove.

I love old towns with history. Angel Fire is not old and it does not have history. No old school house or cemetery with tell tale dates to contemplate. It has no grand buildings or even a real main street. No sidewalks. Angel Fire was incorporated as a village in 1986 severing itself from the ski resort of the same name opened in 1965. The resort is still upset. As I was preparing to write this blog it dawned on me I have no pictures of Angel Fire. It has nothing worthy to photograph beyond the mountains which surround it. It has no park like Los Alamos, also a young town, and what passes for Village Hall looks like an abandoned strip center.

So I take my camera and visit other towns with history. Other towns which are dying like Raton, New Mexico. Raton is our county seat, and forever a sore point for our side of the county where Angel Fire is situated. All the court houses and county records are in Raton. That is where we go upon demand to serve in juries. Raton is two hours away. Just far enough they pay for mileage if you serve but not for an overnight stay. Raton's population is falling almost daily. Angel Fire's population is rising. Angel Fire isn't dying but it definitely has not grown up yet.

Main Street Raton, New Mexico

Angel Fire still behaves as it it is a service community to the mine; read as resort. All my favorite old towns like Raton, Cimarron, Trinidad and Las Vegas were once mining towns with railroads. And the mines closed. And all came face to face with dying. To save a mining town from dying it must be repurposed. Las Vegas, New Mexico is doing pretty good at that. It just takes a few people willing to commit. Restoration of its older buildings around the central plaza is following the Plaza Hotel. It is now one of the filming locations for Longmire as well as several movies. And galleries and restaurants have taken up occupancy of other old buildings.  

Plaza Hotel
Las Vegas, New Mexico

Trinidad, Colorado is succeeding too in my opinion. I think some of the movers and shakers in that town have doubts from time to time primarily due to economic conditions. But it does have the movers and shakers. They are mostly small business owners, the historians and the members of their arts council. They out number the cave people. Cave people epidemic in Raton.

Off Main Street on Commercial
Trinidad, Colorado

So what does a very new town like Angel Fire have in common with these older towns? Two things: Cave people, and the need to repurpose. Angel Fire if it is going to grow responsibility and not die if the ski area closes must develop a purpose other than just a resort town. 

It does not have to remodel and restore its infrastructure like Raton, Las Vegas and Trinidad or even Cimarron with its main street of galleries. Angel Fire has to build an infrastructure. It needs a park, sidewalks, a museum (maybe it isn't old but the surrounding area has history), a senior center (it has an aging population). And to reflect the community interests it needs infrastructure for the art organizations which are even older than the town. It needs a performing arts center for Music From Angel Fire and theatrical companies. It needs an Arts Activity Center for the Moreno Valley Arts Council so it can continue to foster arts, artists and other art organizations, as well as continuing to carry the art education ball dropped by the schools. And that park, not yet built, needs a band shell for musicians to perform in on summer nights.

It also needs a new Village Hall and a post office not bordering on condemnation. The bulldozer is under estimated as a remodeling tool in northern New Mexico. But to know what needs saved and what needs built and what needs bulldozed you need a vision of what you want the Village of Angel Fire to grow up to become. I am personally in favor of beginning with the Arts Activities Center. The towns I have visited which seem to be turning the tide on dying have been lead by the artists. Maybe it is because their creative natures allow them to see beyond to what can be.

BTW, all the towns which are winning the fight to survive have an active arts council.


  1. Insightful and well written - a call to action

    1. Thank you, Terry. I am heart an essayist or what we today call a blogger.


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