Located a two hour drive south east of Denver on the beautiful Eastern Plains of Colorado, the Town of Limon (population 2,000) hosted their Citizens' Institute on Rural Design™ (CIRD)workshop February 27 to March 1, 2017. In the short time since the conclusion of the workshop the community has already begun implementing short-term actions to leverage funding and build on the excitement generated at the workshop. “As we said prior to the CIRD Workshop, this was a once-in- a lifetime opportunity to bring outside experience into Limon and create a vision for wayfaring/signage and trails and the workshop certainly delivered,” said Limon Mayor Julie Coonts. “What we ended up with, because of the community involvement, far exceeded that expectation as it has grown into a significantly larger vision that could meet many other community priorities in a Grand Plan.”
Limon, nicknamed the Hub City of Eastern Colorado, is the largest town for 60 miles in any direction, and the main destination along five major highways. The Town receives $1 million a year in tax revenue from visitors passing through and the nearly 80,000 visitors who spend the night. Limon also has several downtown destinations and activities which attract residents on a regular basis but often are not advertised or easily accessed by the visitors stopping along the highway interchanges.
The goals of the workshop were to expand and build on existing trail networks and improve design, signage and wayfinding in order to:
Throughout the two-and-a-half-day workshop participants engaged in place mapping exercises, visioning sessions, and learned about wayfinding and environmental graphics, and bike and pedestrian connectivity. The resource team was comprised of four professionals representing the fields of architecture, wayfinding and environmental graphic design, transportation planning and civil engineering:
During the place mapping exercise, a group of 60 participants broke out into groups of 10 and for two hours and used base maps to identify five great destinations in town and five challenge areas. The groups then drew the existing and desired pathways between these destinations. This activity was important in developing a group vision for identifying and prioritizing destinations they want visitors to experience, and the best ways to get there and stimulated discussion about town destinations and entrance points, as well as challenge and opportunity areas in the Town.
In addition to enthusiastic participation from nearly 100 residents, local leaders secured commitment from 27 state agency and organization representatives who participated throughout the workshop. These participants acted as a state resource team and funding group representing a range of funding organizations and departments like the Colorado Department of Transportation, The Colorado Department of Local Affairs, The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade and the Colorado office for USDA-RD Community and Economic Development. Establishing a relationship with local funders early on in the project process was highly beneficial. During one of the workshop sessions the state funding team gathered to brainstorm a list of funding sources for trail construction, signage design and implementation, and programming and events focused on the the placemaking project. They also developed a timeline for the project which was instrumental in delineating which funds were best suited for short term, medium term and long term actions.
Each day of the workshop the Town hosted community meals for participants where everyone shared stories, got to know each other, and continued conversations about challenges and opportunities facing the community. Local leaders used social media to promote each day’s activities and also live-streamed presentations for those who could not attend a session. On the last day of the workshop community members gathered to develop a calendar of short term actions, events and programming in order to sustain the excitement and momentum generated during the workshop.
Since the conclusion of the workshop the Town has already begun implementing many of the short term recommendations. The process of identifying important and well used places in the community brought up issues related to design, maintenance and accessibility. Well used but challenged areas include the Kissell Fishing Pond and the wetlands area. The pond has drainage problems, often can be smelly and is not well stocked, while the wetlands are difficult to access.
The Kissel Fishing Pond was stocked by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, and a plan has been implemented to address the water issues in the walk-thru tunnel to the Wetlands.The Town Board of Trustees gathered on March 26 and held a four-hour workshop to develop a community branding plan as well as a “Grand Plan” that will combine the CIRD visions of Signage/Wayfaring and Bike/Pedestrian Trails with other design projects addressed in the town’s recently updated comprehensive plan. This Grand Plan will be shared later this summer with the statewide funding group. Discussion at the meeting also focused on creating a priority project list and a financial plan that included exploring a local sales tax increase and bonding program. Both the sales tax increase and bonding program would be referred to local voters during either the April or November 2018 election. The Town has already submitted an application to Downtown Colorado, Inc. for a VISTA/AmeriCorps volunteer who will assist with development and implementation of the Grand Plan.
Mayor Coonts is leading an effort to convene a Board of Trustees Workshop on Branding and Marketing and has received a commitment from a graphic artist with ties to Limon to assist with the project. Lastly the town had design students at the University of Colorado, Center for Community Development participate in the workshop and they are now working on a Final Report of the workshop. They will have a finalized report by the end of April that the town can use to publicize the successful event and secure further funding.
Overall, the workshop successfully engaged local residents, got commitment from the community, convened partners and funders early on in the visioning process, and used the initial excitement created by the workshop to take immediate short term action that can leverage longer term projects and funding. Limon is effectively developing a tourist based economic development plan that builds on existing cultural assets in the town and also planning for improved livability and sense of place for residents. If you are interested in viewing presentations from the workshop, the participant lists, and more details about ongoing work related to this project visit the Town of Limon website.
One of the short term actions identified during the workshop was a Bike to School event wher the Town could test out Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper interventions like cones, painted bike lanes, bump-outs and temporary signage in order to demonstrate possibilities for signage and trails.
The Bike to School and Bike Rodeo event were held on May 16, 2017 and striped bike lanes were created on both sides of 8th Street west of the school for the event. Over 100 kids rode their bikes using the new lanes and the pop-up lanes created using cones.
This is another inspiring example of local leaders taking action and implementing quick wins.