The recent downturn in the coal industry led to a literal collapse in Delta County. On April 22nd, the silos that once housed coal for the Oxbow mines in Somerset were demolished, taking down a familiar visual landmark that the local community took pride in.

Nearly a year and half ago, when the West Elk mines idled activities, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded nearly $250,000 in grant funds to a joint project associated with Delta County, Gunnison County, and Region 10. The primary goal of the project was to identify and strategize for a diversified economic future for these communities that have been dependent upon the coal industry for so long.

In partnership with Better City consultants (who were awarded the bid to develop market strategies and determine project feasibility), the Delta County group (with support from City of Delta, Delta County Economic Development, and Delta County Commissioners) has started to move forward on a number of potential economic development projects. The partnership produced eight different potential projects, which include detailed market analysis and feasibility.

As a natural hub for outdoor beauty, Delta is seeking to build upon its existing identity as an outdoor recreation destination. A two-mile stretch along the Gunnison River, between Confluence and Cottonwood Parks, has been identified as a potential site for development. The development would include building trails on both sides of the river, increasing access, and additional parks. There is even discussion about activating old gravel ponds for possible recreation use, such as a paddleboard park.

The City of Delta has already received a $100,000 grant from the Department of Local Affairs to be used for engineering plans for the development.

To compliment the riverside planning, the development of big brand hotel and conference center has also been identified as a potential project. To better accommodate Delta’s tourism markets, a nationally-recognized hotel brand will attract new patrons who eagerly book through loyalty and rewards programs. A formal request for proposals will be publicly available in the future. Several hotel companies are currently considering Delta as a future location, so this project seems promising at the moment.

The building of a hotel and the development of riverside recreation will not be the sole answers to Delta County’s immediate woes. Instead, these projects will serve as infrastructure for a bigger plan. The big picture that needs to be addressed is how the community brands and markets itself moving forward. In addition, this bigger picture includes how the county develops future frameworks for public/private partnerships to better leverage community resources while encouraging private investment back into the community.

Over time, the synthesis of these projects will help move the dial and put Delta on a path to future economic development.

For more information regarding the feasibility studies and analysis conducted by Better Cities, please contact Delta County Economic Development at 970.874.4992.

Click here to view a presentation put together by DCED that covers many of the other projects proposed during this economic diversification plan.