It is a place with a long and rich history in Colorado. But, for most travelers, it’s been relegated to the category of ‘that place.’ But, places like Trinidad---not quite 200 miles south of Denver on I-25---hold secrets that are now just being discovered. For anyone willing to invest, say, an afternoon or even a weekend, Trinidad and the surrounding area, can absolutely fascinate.
This historic mining town has all the things you would want in a getaway; the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, recreation, including great lakes and hiking, camping, fishing and a picturesque downtown.
The city’s stately architecture captures the eye; the old buildings like the First National Bank and the turn of the century brick-laid streets are timeless. The buildings are ‘old, boom-town Trinidad,’ at its best.
But if things work out and the driving energy that is cracking the egg on a ‘new Trinidad’ is successful, the city may---just may---transform into a destination stop for north-south interstate travelers.
Energized by a new municipal vision, local volunteers and some powerful outside forces, Trinidad is on the move. City Manager Greg Sund calls it ‘economic gardening,’ an “incremental approach to economic development.” It’s an approach he calls “more efficient and effective” in working with the business community.
It began when the city revived its urban renewal authority. It includes, among other things, economic incentives to business owners and reaching out beyond Trinidad. The approach includes a plan to do in Trinidad what has worked in a number of other big and small towns across the country.
One component is something called Art Space. First tried in Minneapolis, Minnesota, it identifies a spot conducive for artists to set down roots. In Minneapolis, the city targeted long out of use warehouse districts. Because they were affordable for struggling artists, they were ideal. The seed sprouted and things took off. Trinidad hopes the same thing happens here and it catches a lot of eyes. Lending a hand is historic preservationist giant and Denver icon, Dana Crawford. Crawford’s name is routinely connected to Denver’s iconic Larimer Square.
“When you’re a small community, it’s not always easy to get your name out,” said Crawford. But she believes that working with the city and investors, Trinidad can become more than “a place to stop for gas and a hamburger.”
For people outside of Trinidad, said Crawford, “they’ve missed the point of Trinidad.” The town is populated with buildings that are certainly too expensive to be replicated today, including its churches, civic buildings and hotels. One look at the city’s main streets underscores her point. Its profile is courtesy of turn of the century architectural icons, the Rapp Brothers. They also had a big hand in Santa Fe’s one of a kind architecture.
Crawford, more doer than dreamer, suggests southern Colorado is the state’s hidden gem. And that people looking for a getaway from Denver head south 190 miles and not west on the oftentimes gridlocked I-70.
This southern Colorado renaissance has a strong state and national economy going for it, said Trinidad Downtown Development Coordinator, Andrew Wallace. “We’ve been able to add jobs and increase our tourism economy.” The uptick has also helped “stabilize a lot of our finances so that we can reinvest.”
The Colorado Springs native has been with the city two years. He likes that he’s a part this embryonic reawakening. What the city is doing, he said, “is not only a financially good idea but also doing it in a great environment.” If you’re saving buildings instead of tearing them down “you’re part of something good. “ He wants people to think of Trinidad not so much as the old-time coal town it once was, but a place where they can escape into a great environment and land in idyllic small town Colorado.