Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Trinidad Loves Company

That's what they say, anyhow! It was just over a week ago that we passed through Trinidad on the Southwest Chief, but yesterday I arrived by car and took my sweet time exploring the quaint town and learning about the train's past and hopeful future. In the morning I met with Mr. Acre and Ms. Bolton (mentioned in my last post) and learned that, above all else, the train is the main transportation resource for most folks in the community, including the councilwoman herself. Legally, the City of Trinidad is in full support of saving the Southwest Chief, and local officials have made their voices heard in meetings and hearings in Denver.

Between meetings, I walked down to explore the aging tracks; even from the perspective of a train novice like myself, they do need repair. The historic train depot, once serving innumerable passengers and trains per week, was recently renovated into an upscale restaurant. The buildings along the tracks, which closely parallels I-25, are abandoned and decrepit. Plans to build a multi-modal station are in the works in Trinidad, which will likely add appeal to the area beside the tracks. 

In the afternoon, I went to the Las Aminas County Courthouse to meet with County Commissioner Gary Hill and County Administrator Leeann Fabec. Both Trinidad natives, Hill and Fabec have seen the progression of the communities economy and the influence of the train on it's development. Trinidad was once a prosperous coal mining town, like so many in the area, but when mining became expensive and less ideal due to it's environmental harm, oil drilling took the lead as Trinidad's most successful industry. In recent years, drilling companies have relocted to Texas, taking a number of jobs and Southeastern Colorado families with them. Today, Commissioner Hill fears that if the town loses the Southwest Chief too, it's the 'final nail in the coffin', and that Trinidad will not have the ability to grow, but instead fall into ruin like so many of their neighboring communities. 

Trinidad was by far the largest community I've visited so far for the Chief project, and I wish I could have stayed longer to talk with local business owners and citizens. On my way out the door, Leeann Fabec pointed me toward Tara Marshall, Director of Trinidad's Colorado Welcome Center. I was lucky enough to track her down at City Hall for a quick interview before heading back up to Colorado Springs. Marshall has great hope that with the Southwest Chief, Trinidad will tap into their tourism potential and begin to prosper again.

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