Mike Hackett was a friend of mine. Mike was the city manager in Alamosa from 1988 to 2006 and passed away a few years later. He was very good at finding grant money for projects. During his time as the city manager, the city received funds for a wastewater treatment plant, built a senior citizen center and numerous other projects. Perhaps the city’s greatest achievement and the thing that made Mike the proudest was the purchase of “The Ranch.” It was roughly 1300 acres, which met the city at the river and encompassed two sections of the finest sub-irrigated meadows in the valley.
I remember visiting with Mike once as we were discussing sturgeon fishing on the Columbia River. He said that “’The Ranch’ and the golf course were the two jewels of Alamosa.” He felt that both of these treasures were items that a lot of small towns lacked. These were the type of amenities along with a river, a warm water swimming pool and an unobstructed view of God’s majesty that people looked for when they were considering locations for economic development.
“The Ranch” served a number of purposes. The city dredged dirt to build up the levee along the river, which took most of the city out of the flood zone. This meant no more flood insurance was needed. The excavations from the dirt removal became ponds, which attracted various birds and wildlife. The water rights that were acquired from the purchase created wetlands which the Army Corps of Engineers developed into areas of open space and additional wildlife habitat.
Mike had a greater vision such as trails being built, trees being planted, a botanic garden, creating a real showplace and a community coming together and sharing. It was never the intent to use it for actual economic development. The economic development would happen because the town had a couple of jewels to offer to potential developers. Mikes’ view for economic development seemed to center around the downtown and railroad area. Its rich history and central location was the place to build restaurants, shops and businesses, essentially revitalizing the downtown area, which could become another Taos or Durango. Mike would be enraged with what is currently happening with “The Ranch.” Allowing it to be traded so that a high-density RV residency could invade the peacefulness and beauty was contrary to his purpose and vision for “The Ranch.”
What is economic development if you don’t have a quality of life to accompany it? Why take away a safe bike path and replace it with a 15,000 lb. RV? We’ve already had a horrible tragedy on that road which involved a young volunteer helping the homeless who didn’t finish the bike ride. What about all the children who ride their bikes to Splashland and the runners from our world class cross country teams? Do we now want them to dodge these 60 ft monstrosities?
It’s a shameful stewardship of our resources to watch our city trade a property that is appraised for $350K for one valued at $200K. What is next?
Mike Hackett was a good negotiator. No one got the better of him and I can guarantee you that Mike would not have done this deal. But if he did, he certainly would have gotten a much better deal. I think that perhaps in the course of an evening, we managed to kill his legacy and his dream.