A History of Pagosa’s San Juan Overlook
The late great Kate Terry, my mentor in writing and a lot of other things, always insisted not to use the term “I” in an article. Okay if an editorial! Kate, you’re going to have to forgive me because some subjects require it.
I was publishing a tourist magazine for the Pagosa area starting in the 1980s. Kate tried to take a Kentucky Hill William doing what is euphemistically called “NASCAR journalism” and turn him into… something a little better.
As a way to promote advertising sales, I wanted to be seen as insuring issues were delivered to the tourists rather than laying them around town and hoping they would be picked up. I began delivering to campgrounds in the National Forest, at Treasure Falls, the summit of the pass and by standing in the parking area across from the main street shops and handing them out. At that time Pagosa was a different place most newcomers would not fully recognize. Chamber manager, Bob Hand, once noted that Pagosa’s color scheme was “brown on brown”. The San Juan was a flat-bottomed channel running through town that people rarely went to. The entire Springs Resort was not yet built and bathing was in four plastic hot tubs. Where most of The Spring Resort is now was a wide dirty place that caught all sorts of trash floating down the river. There was no river walk or many other items taken for granted these days.
The Chamber of Commerce was mostly asleep-at-the-wheel in a tiny old log building in Town Park. They just didn’t know the art of promotion beyond making a Pagosa themed Monopoly Game. I was working out of Jim Smith’s office and one day we agreed Pagosa information should be more available and visible. Jim offered a prized parking space and I built a small building to fill the space. It was based on the historic downtown look of a century ago with awnings and all. Suddenly Pagosa had a color other than brown!
At about that time, while I was handing out magazines, the Town Manager walked up saying the Town didn’t mind me handing out magazines, but were worried about me standing in what was a driving lane. We chatted and I pointed out that there was no real space for anyone to stand. Tourists flocked to the mineral mound hot spring display and they were also in the driving lane. I don’t know the background of how things were moved along, but in about two weeks work was started on the first deck overlooking the San Juan and hot spring. People joked that it was “Norm’s deck”.
To the Chamber’s credit they did build the Visitor’s Center. Manager Hand was a contractor and he did know how to build.
The deck was modified over the years looking and working better each time. I was in business with a picnic table to layout business brochures and my magazines. I learned a lot about tourism and that area.