A sign that marks the entrance to Ignacio's central business district welcomes drivers to a "Tri-Ethnic Community," a nod to the Native American, Hispanic and white populations residing within.
"Tri-ethnic" is accurate, but city officials would like a town image that brings outsiders in and incorporates the town's Western heritage.
Pat Senecal, Ignacio town planner, has been part of a revitalization effort heading into its sixth year. Because of the new Sky Ute Casino and the upgrade of the Ignacio Public Library, she and other town officials and residents have been emboldened, gathering steam and working to rebrand the town.
An initiative called the Community Revitalization Program began with the purchase of a 60-acre parcel west of Ignacio, known as Candelaria Heights, in 2002. A survey of residents showed Senecal she wasn't alone in her desire to upgrade the town.
Since then, four annexations have added 80 additional acres to Ignacio. State grants have gone to infrastructure, energy audits, personnel and river trail upgrades. The town secured a grant from the Colorado Council of the Arts for the commission of two murals to go on Goddard Avenue.
In the works are plans to better connect the Sky Ute Casino to town with walkways and shuttles. Casino manager Matt Olin said his facility's 19,000-square-foot conference center is expected to operate near its 2,000-person capacity, even with a recession raging around the country.
"The casino's a real important part of this community. We consider ourselves an important part of the overall economy here," Olin said.
The casino expects to open another restaurant, spa and shop in the spring, and the tribe is continuing construction of a 51,000-square-foot museum, designed by Seattle firm Jones & Jones Architects, adjacent to the casino.
A survey last year showed trustees that residents are encouraged and willing to support more developments. A team of specialists in a variety of fields presented ideas for traffic control, economic development, community marketing and architectural upgrades at a community meeting Feb. 3.
The consultants said the stretch of Goddard Drive in Ignacio that functions as a Main Street should be more pedestrian-friendly. Signs could bookend the business district and give directions.
Bob Kunkel, coordinator of the Durango Central Business District and one of the consultants, said Ignacio has a longer column of "strengths" than "weaknesses," but one fact was clear: "Their economic development is tied to the tribe."
He compared the Ignacio/
Southern Ute Tribe relationship to that of a town with one large factory employing a majority of residents and bringing in most of the town's money. He didn't think a comparison with the city of Golden and the Coors plant incorporated there was far off.
"When you have one big employer who's not sitting still, then it's very much like Ignacio."
Kunkel told residents at the meeting the image they settle on should be one easily remembered and considerate of the town's heritage and also its future.
For an image, Kunkel suggested something in the way of "Old Ignacio," an image that conjures a theme of the original West. Otherwise, he worries others will label the community.
"If you don't have an image, and promote an image, you'll be given one," he said.
"The one that you get will usually not be one that you want because the competition will point out your flaws, your deficiencies. You leave a void that will be filled with things like 'It's too dark,' 'There's too much truck traffic,' 'There's nothing going on.'"
Town Manager Balty Quintana has seen the town change in his lifetime. He first came to the town as a 10-year-old in the 1950s, a time when Ignacio was feeling the effects of the first rush of energy development in the area.
"It was a pretty wild town. (It) had two or three bars and there were fights, and that's part of what made it a Wild West town at the time," Quintana said. "There were a lot of conflicts with some of the roughnecks that would come in from Oklahoma and Texas, and some of the locals here."
Traffic, jobs and new faces moved in, and the town has been bolstered by the presence of offices for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Quintana said he's seen the pace of development pick up in recent years, the biggest changes resulting from energy and gaming development that started in the early 1990s.
Quintana said the only interest he had with Ignacio's image was in correcting a negative one.
"I've never been one to have a concern about Ignacio's image. I don't live here because anybody forces me."