Impact of new CO state park on City of Raton
by Brandon Waller RATON — As previously reported in World Journal, plans have been announced by the state government in Colorado to open a new state park at Fishers Peak/Crazy French Ranch just outside of Trinidad. As it is currently set up, visitors to the park will have to travel through the City of Raton to the access trail which is located at Lake Dorothey, outside of New Mexico’s Sugarite Canyon State Park, making the trail access just under a mere 12 miles from Raton. Jessica Barfield, Raton’s director of economic development, said the park will be a major boon to the city. “I believe the Crazy French acquisition has the potential to be of huge economic value to Raton. I meet with Wally Wallace (Economic Director of Trinidad, CO) every other week to discuss the developments and plans being made. One of the main overall goals is to develop an inclusive trail system to allow for hiking, biking, etc. from downtown Trinidad to downtown Raton,” Barfield said. “Due to the size of this project, I don’t believe we’ll see the trail system developed (to that extent) for a year or two, but once it is, it will provide top-notch outdoor recreation opportunities, that combined with marketing efforts, could put Raton and Trinidad on the map as a true tourist destination for outdoor enthusiasts.” According to Barfield, both the City of Trinidad and the State of Colorado have enlisted the assistance of CU Boulder grad students to complete a deep-dive analysis into who the target market is, and what type of businesses would cater to the tourists who would enjoy those activities. “Once the study is complete, we should have some very niche outdoor retail markets to approach and recruit,” says Barfield. Barfield said Raton has already been in talks with several businesses regarding the park opening, which will remain confidential until official plans are announced. Raton can expect, however, to see major growth in relation to outdoor recreation and businesses that cater to that demand. When asked about potential plans for the area, Barfield replied “As far as what I would like to see, I would love to see some expanded camping options in Sugarite. One advantage that New Mexico has is our low cost to camp and explore in our state parks. Colorado raised their rates last year, resulting in more people choosing to camp in New Mexico. As this park continues to develop, I expect the demand for accommodations to increase.” Raton was recently visited by New Mexico State Outdoor Recreation Director Axis Navas and the city is currently in talks with NM State Parks to ensure that the state is an active, functioning partner to assist with recruitment and expansion in the area. Both Barfield and Jared Chatterly, Raton’s Director of Parks and Recreation, attended the Outdoor Retailer Convention in Denver last summer, and both plan to attend the upcoming Winter Outdoor Retailer show in Colorado. Their intent in attending these trade shows is to collect contact information for retailers which are already interested in the Colorado and New Mexico area, in hopes of making connections with retailers who will be interested in establishing in Raton. The two plan on attending the New Mexico outdoor trade shows, and plan on revisiting the summer Outdoor Retail Show in Denver, as it is the largest in the U.S. with thousands of retailers, meaning a number of potential businesses just waiting to come to Raton and reap the benefits of a rapidly growing outdoor recreation scene.