At its 2021 annual meeting at the Lone Cone Saloon in December, the Norwood Chamber of Commerce celebrated successes and looked ahead to 2022. Some notable achievements from last year included a new era of cooperation with San Miguel County, West End and southern Colorado chambers and agencies in collaborative marketing programs highlighting the region’s immensity of space and experience; the Colorado Stargazing Project, managed by Buena Vista agency VistaWorks, which wrangled a $60,000 Colorado Tourism Office grant for national marketing of the Colorado Dark Skies region; and the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic Byway 30th Anniversary, last fall’s multi-event celebration, highlighted by self-guided tours connecting points of interest, activities and other Colorado scenic byways. 

The chamber also looked back on Ride the Rockies, when hundreds of cyclists from around the world spent the night in Norwood on a hot day in June and ran out of food. Local restaurants, the fire department, the Lone Cone Legacy Trust, sheriffs’ deputies, marshals, and stores like Clarks Market and High Country Bicycles pitched in to save the day, earning high praise from event organizers, grateful participants and national media. 

There were successful events like Noel Night, Pioneer Day, Star-Spangled Saturday and farmers markets, which were a welcome relief for joining together again after the shutdowns. And, the crown jewel of Wrights Mesa, the San Miguel Basin Fair and Rodeo, came back with a bang.

New businesses moved in during 2021, Alpine Wellness and Mesa Rose, and there were upgrades to Clarks Market, ACE Hardware and the construction new Sheriffs Office Annex.

Looking ahead, some plans for the New Year include more events like art walks, live music, farmers markets, dances, Dark Sky star parties and more vendor participation programs. The chamber is also hoping for more creative use of facilities at the rodeo arena, Town Park, Pocket Park, ball fields, the Livery, Pig Palace and more — and a downtown beautification initiative and mini-grant campaign for Grand Avenue storefronts.

They’d also like to see a Grand Avenue visitor center presence, staffed during high seasons, and remodeling the Dark Skies’ maps and resource center at the Lone Cone Library, along with a Dark Skies, Bright Future” welcome-to-Norwood banner across Grand Avenue.

“COVID started a ‘road trip revolution,’ which calls for a regional strategy versus hyper-focused destination marketing,” said chamber president John Metzger. “People are moving away from crowds and traditional vacations and spreading their wings on the road with all manner of vehicles, activities, and often longer stays and remote work opportunities.”

In last November’s election, Telluride chose to opt out of the lodging-tax district, which is the Norwood Chamber’s primary funding source. According to Metzger, out of approximately $1 million in annual tax revenues, all that remains after Telluride’s exit is less than 10 percent of that amount, most of which was allocated to the East End. The impact remains to be seen, but “Telluride voters sent the message that they’re tired of overcrowding in their town,” he said. “It’s up to us to manage the remaining revenues for regional marketing and the rural economic renaissance that’s going to benefit everyone in San Miguel County on both East and West ends.”

At the annual meeting, Metzger emphasized the chamber’s community development strategy in positioning Norwood, Nucla, Naturita — and the greater West End — as a hub and regional basecamp for adventure vacationers, RVs, remote workers, new residents and new businesses. 

“Our unique location is surrounded by some of the world’s richest points of interest, all under International Dark Skies designation,” said Metzger. “It’s a new era, and a new opportunity for communities to work together toward smart growth and tourism based on regional brand engagement, and to reimagine rural economic development.”