Growing food and community with local energy

Courtesy Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership

Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) manages a botanic educational park on Pagosa Springs’ Riverwalk. 

Three dome greenhouses are dedicated to three different themes. The greenhouses grow food year-round with geothermal heat, passive solar energy and active solar electricity. 

GGP demonstrates sustainability in its food production, water conservation and renewable energy. 

As Covid-19 restrictions lift, GGP will again be an active community meeting place and its Education and Community Garden Domes will be open to the public.

Since 2017, the Education Dome has held classes and workshops for all ages. Hundreds of school students visit to learn about a healthy biodiverse environment, growing fresh food and renewable energy. Now all food being grown in the Education Dome is being donated to Pagosa’s local food pantries for weekly distribution. This year any excess food will go to the Pagosa Farmers Market. Local gardening groups grow food in GGP’s Community Garden Dome for community members. 

GGP’s Innovation Dome is a soilless integrated aquaponic system, growing both fish and vegetables. The system is bio-secure and highly water conservative.

GGP operates through a professional board of directors, numerous volunteers, five strategic committees and an enthusiastic membership base. GGP treasures its many partnerships and collaborates with the Town of Pagosa Springs, the Audubon Society, Colorado Water Plan, Santa Fe Community College, Archuleta Food Coalition, Southwest Organization for Sustainability and many more organizations.

Visit GGP on the San Juan River Walk in Centennial Park. Visit pagosagreen.org for more information, to contact GGP and to volunteer. GGP is “growing food and community with local energy!” See you on the Riverwalk.

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Throughout the centuries, people of all cultures have come to regard the hot mineral waters in Pagosa Springs as having healing properties. 

Whether they were used to soothe sore muscles, to deal with breathing issues or just for simple relaxation, the hot mineral baths have played a key part in the development of Pagosa Springs. 

Pagosa is also home to the famous Dr. Mary Fisher — our own “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” — who, back in the late 1800s, graduated medical school as a doctor of homeopathy and surgery. She brought her healing skills, tenacity and tenderness to Pagosa Springs at the turn of the century, becoming a legend and the namesake for the Dr. Mary Fisher Medical Foundation, a nonprofit that exists to assist, benefit and support the district that oversees the local hospital.

Perhaps because of the healing waters, the thought that Pagosa is founded on a vortex, or just because of the natural assets of the flowing rivers, cascading waterfalls or glorious mountains, those providing many forms of healing have been drawn to our community. 

Pagosa abounds in talented therapists qualified in a variety of massage techniques. Traditional massage, cranio-sacral, Swedish, deep tissue, sports, neuromuscular, axial tonal alignment, kinesiology, energy work and reflexology are but some of the modalities practiced by trained therapists. Therapists work out of several spas in the community, stand-alone businesses, out of their homes and, with their massage tables, will travel to your home. Massage therapy is definitely one of the industries that is prevalent in Pagosa — good for the therapist and for those who need and want this body work. 

A comprehensive aquatic wellness program with therapeutic water exercises is offered for adults with chronic health conditions or healthy individuals who just wish to improve their fitness level.

Traditional medical practitioners in the area focus on and offer preventative and wellness programs to help individuals achieve a healthy, active lifestyle.

Pagosa also has its share of qualified chiropractors. There are a variety of chiropractic treatments available, serving a wide range of needs. With the active lifestyles in our community, sports medicine treatments, using traditional adjustment methods and non-force techniques are also widely available. Whether a resident of Pagosa or someone interested in opening a practice, there is certainly room to explore this industry.

If you are looking to improve your life through conscious and inner awareness, Pagosa is home to a number of well-trained therapists, including hypnotherapy practitioners. Several practitioners who had very successful businesses in the “big city” have chosen to move to a smaller community, and have made Pagosa their home, now sharing their expertise with the community by setting up shop here in the mountains. Some therapists still travel, but make Pagosa their home base. Whether experiencing a life change, a choice of a place to raise your family, downsizing or even semi to full retirement, Pagosa welcomes alternative and experiential therapists. 

With the resurgence in natural or holistic products in recent years, Pagosa Springs is also home to a variety of businesses producing natural-based products. Some of the businesses operate from storefronts, offering spices, tinctures, oils, teas, soaps and many other selections. Other businesses are home-based and Internet-driven. Body and facial care products, soaps and cleaning products are produced locally, but marketed globally. As the market for holistic and natural products increases, talented practitioners are finding our community conducive to producing and marketing these products right here in Pagosa Springs. Pagosa, with one of its eyes on the holistic, is a perfect place for businesses of this nature to set down roots and grow.

Our community is a wellspring of traditional and alternative solutions to health care. With lodging and conference facilities, mineral hot springs in town and the great outdoors as our backyard, Pagosa Springs is an attractive site for wellness seminars educating the outside world to the benefits of alternative methods of treatments and holistic products. There is still room for the “alternative” community to come together and better promote our area to the outside world. 

The Chamber of Commerce would be happy to assist businesses interested in expanding this alternative arena. Pagosa exemplifies a healthy way of life through its active lifestyle and open-mindedness to alternative contributions to health care.

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By Angela Wirth

A diagnosis of cancer can be one of the most difficult things to hear, but fortunately, many patients fully recover if their cancer is detected early and treated effectively. 

Diagnosis and treatment can be especially challenging in smaller communities in rural areas, which often lack access to basic health care services, let alone specialty care. However, Pagosa Springs isn’t your average small town.

Since it opened three years ago, Pagosa Springs Medical Center’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders has been an invaluable asset for residents of Pagosa Springs and the surrounding area.

Having such a high level of care available so close to home has made a tremendous difference in people’s lives. Before the center opened, military veterans in Pagosa Springs who needed cancer treatments regularly traveled to Albuquerque to receive care. Others who needed cancer treatments also had to travel there, or to Durango or Denver, incurring additional travel expenses and experiencing higher levels of stress, inconvenience and interruptions to work and other aspects of daily life.

PSMC and the center offer not only diagnostics to detect cancers early, but also individualized treatments, including chemotherapy. In the center’s infusion center, staffed by experienced infusion nurses and support staff, patients can also be treated with hormonal therapy, immunotherapy and specialized infusion therapies for blood and autoimmune disorders. 

When a higher level of care is necessary, such as radiation, PSMC’s Cancer Center team coordinates care with specialists at other institutions, including nationally recognized cancer centers, to best address patient needs.

PSMC is fortunate to have a dedicated team of highly experienced cancer specialists to guide The Center through its unique challenges. The Cancer Center team includes Dr. Andrew Buck, oncologist and hematologist; Dr. Bill Jordan, oncologist; Dr. Roy Tinguely, general surgeon; Kelly Cesary, advanced oncology certified nurse practitioner; Lauren Muir, physical therapist and certified lymphedema therapist; Christina Reeves, Director of Pharmacy and administrative director for the center; Dr. Jessica Cox, radiologist; an oncology nurse navigator, chemotherapy/biotherapy certified infusion nurses, and a social worker. 

The cancer team works together to develop treatment plans that focus not only on using the latest technologies and treatments, but treating every patient individually, with compassionate, personalized care. There is no single way to beat cancer; there are many, and the integrated care team at PSMC’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders is here to help you every step of the way.

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Photo courtesy Jeff Laydon/Pagosa Photography

Seeds of Learning

Seeds of Learning, a NAEYC-accredited early care and education center 501(c)(3) organization in Archuleta County, is a quality early childhood education facility serving preschool children ages 2.5 to 5 years old. The center encompasses early education, child care, parenting classes and staff in-services. 

The center piloted and provides the Incredible Years Program, which brings children, their parents and their teachers together in a proven prevention strategy that has been shown to reduce child behavior problems, promote positive discipline and improve school performance. 

They are also contracted by the Archuleta School District to implement the Colorado Preschool Program, which serves children in need of language development and helps reduce the risk of school failure by providing support through early childhood education. 

Seeds of Learning provides a hot lunch every day, along with breakfast and afternoon snack. Tuition is offered on a sliding scale. 

Seeds of Learning is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and is open year round. The center is located close to the downtown area and provides an educational, nurturing environment for children and parents. 

More information can be obtained by visiting the website at www.growingseeds.org.

Tri-County Head Start

Tri-County Head Start has provided quality early childhood education programs at nine locations throughout Southwestern Colorado for over 40 years. Participation in the Pagosa Springs Head Start program is at no cost to eligible families. Free or low-cost extended day services are also available. 

Each year, 48 enrolled children from ages 3-5 in Archuleta County benefit from daily activities helping them grow mentally, emotionally, physically and socially. Head Start program services also include health screenings and assessments, disability services and family involvement. 

Visit the Head Start website at www.tchs4c.org for more information or to apply.

Wings Early Childhood Center

Wings Early Childhood Center in Archuleta County is open year-round and enrolling for preschool (3-5 years), toddlers (2-3 years), and wobblers (1-2 years) classrooms. The center’s mission is to deliver high-quality, affordable early care and education to children in Archuleta County regardless of family income or structure while teaching children through a nature and play-based philosophy.

Tuition will be offered on a sliding scale and information regarding tuition assistance programs such as the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) and Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) will be provided. 

Wings Early Childhood Center is open Monday through Friday, year-round, from 7:30-5:30. The facility is centrally located at 74 Back Swing Ct. Visit their website: wingsearlychildhood.org or Facebook page: www.facebook.com/wings.early.childhood. 

Private Schools and Day Care

There are private organizations that offer early childhood learning and day care services. A list of providers can be obtained by contacting Archuleta County Human Services at 264-2182 or Seeds of Learning.

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Pueblo Community College Southwest

Learning technical skills, achieving a higher level of education and earning an associate degree or technical training certificate are very real possibilities for residents of Pagosa Springs.

What once was a smattering of vocational, technical and online studies has now been gathered under the umbrella of Pueblo Community College Southwest. 

Based in Pueblo, Colo., PCC has been offering community outreach education and training programs in southwestern Colorado for more than 30 years. 

PCC Southwest, a comprehensive two-year college, has three locations. The Southwest Campus is located in Mancos. The Durango site is located on the campus of Durango High School. The newest site in Bayfield is at 110 East South St., the former location of Bayfield Primary School.

Program and course offerings include health care, agribusiness, general education, welding, automotive service technology and college transfer classes. Many courses can be taken on campus or online.

PCC Southwest operates its locations with the aid of a regional advisory board with representatives from local counties, including Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata and Montezuma. The diverse regional representation assists PCC in highlighting the needs of local communities, such as workforce demands and education interests. 

For more information, visit pueblocc.edu/Southwest.

Fort Lewis College and Adams State University 

Pagosa Springs is situated between the sites of two higher learning establishments: Fort Lewis College in Durango and Adams State University in Alamosa.

Fort Lewis College

Serving the Four Corners for over 100 years, Fort Lewis College (FLC) is Colorado’s crossroads of education and adventure, where a uniquely beautiful mountain campus inspires an active and friendly community, and transformative learning experiences foster entrepreneurship, leadership, creativity and life-long learning.

Smaller classes (15:1 ratio of students to faculty with 98 percent of classes smaller than 50 students) is a hallmark for FLC.

There is a diversity of studies offered, with specially accredited programs in business, chemistry, engineering-physics and music. With over 50 student organizations, including NCAA Division II sports (in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference), Fort Lewis College prides itself in not only community activities, but national and international activities through their Study Abroad and Village Aid Project programs. Fort Lewis College also offers internships, service learning, and rigorous undergraduate research opportunities.

Durango marries the educational requirements with the accessibility of the natural playground in which it is located.

Located 60 miles west of Pagosa Springs in Durango, travel to FLC from Pagosa Springs is just an hour.

Curiosity is our compass at Fort Lewis College. Learn more at www.fortlewis.edu.

Adams State University

Adams State University (ASU) is located in Alamosa, approximately 90 miles east of Pagosa Springs. 

ASU is a comprehensive institution offering bachelor degrees in over 60 areas of study, in addition to 11 master’s-level programs and one doctoral program.

ASU is distinguished by caring professors and a diverse, yet close-knit community. The average class size is 18.

ASU was Colorado’s first four-year higher education institution to be federally designated a Hispanic Serving Institution, with 35 percent of undergraduate students identifying as Hispanic.

With about one-third of the student body participating in athletics, the Adams State Grizzlies compete in the NCAA Division II and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Adams State has over 40 student clubs and organizations.

An intimate campus with tree-lined walkways, state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories, supportive programs and a vibrant student life await ASU students.

For more information about ASU, visit www.adams.edu.

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Educational enrichment courses for Archuleta County home-school, private school and public school kids

Photo courtesy Archuleta School District

By Jane Parker

Archuleta School District’s Pagosa Family School (PFS) offers a dynamic educational environment connecting homeschool, private school and public school students as they learn together in enrichment courses. 

PFS responds to the educational and social needs of the students, and the courses reflect the needs of the community. 

PFS is able to offer tuition-free, high-quality classes taught by experienced teachers. 

Courses have included art, choir, general music, drumline, Spanish, physical education, exploratory science, aquatics, sewing, digital animation, outdoor education and drama. 

PFS has also incorporated a focus on service-learning projects to connect the youth to their community and the larger world around them. Service projects have encouraged students to think outside of themselves and to ask how they can help others. The two service-learning projects that PFS students have participated in thus far are the Bee Habitats and Little Dresses for Africa. 

The Bee Habitat service project included building the habitats, filling them with mason and leafcutter bees and then gifting them to the community and placing them along the Riverwalk to support the plants and flowers along the route. 

For another project, students studied African culture integrated in their classes, heard a presentation on humanitarian relief work, and sewed dresses for the nonprofit Little Dresses for Africa. 

Pagosa Family School students are doing their part to give back to the environment and to others as they offer small gestures with a big impact.

Beyond providing educational opportunities and service projects for students in the school district, PFS has also helped promote a positive growing relationship between the various educational communities in Pagosa and has been successful as a result of that positive collaboration.

Each spring, the program surveys families to determine future course offerings for electives. 

PFS is able to offer many electives that may not be offered in the mainstream classroom or homeschooling program, thus adding extra opportunities for all students in Archuleta County. 

For more information email jparker@pagosa.k12.co.us or call (970)264-2228, ext. 408

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Engage learners, connect with community, make a difference 

Photo courtesy Pagosa Peak Open School

Pagosa Peak Open School (PPOS) is a K-8 public, tuition-free school and is chartered through Archuleta School District, but is governed by its own volunteer board of directors.

PPOS has a unique educational model different than the district’s other schools by offering project- and place-based learning, as well as experiential learning, for a hands-on approach. Students learn through doing and by reflecting and discussing what those experiences have taught them. Students develop knowledge, skills and values from direct experiences, both in and out of a conventional academic setting.

PPOS was started by a small group of local parents dedicated to bringing an innovative educational choice to our community. 

PPOS impacts the children of Archuleta County in many ways. Students are learning about regional issues such as snow science, life skills such as gardening, farming and food security, and philanthropy in addition to core English, social studies, mathematics and science targets. 

PPOS has incorporated food security as an important part of its programming. Southwest Colorado is considered a “food desert” and they work with local food banks and local foundations with food initiatives to ensure students have food to eat and learn to cook.

Students, families, community and our region are all incorporated into how PPOS educates. Under school director Angela Reali Crossland, PPOS is working as a unified team with a common goal: creating a community of empowered, lifelong learners by providing a multi-age learning environment designed to foster confidence, high academic achievement, and the joy of learning through original and meaningful work.

Last May, the Pagosa Peak Open School Building Corporation purchased the school’s building at 7 Parelli Way in order to provide a permanent facility for the school.

To learn more about PPOS, visit its website at www.pagosapeakopenschool.org.

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An alternative to success

Photo courtesy Archuleta School District

San Juan Mountain School (SJMS) is an alternative education campus within the Archuleta School District. 

During the school’s first year of operation, students showed drastically improved attendance rates and increases in credit completion. 

More importantly, the student body unified around designing a school from the ground up, both inside and out. 

SJMS Principal Stewart Bellina said of their effort, “It is really exciting to watch a group of students who typically feel as though they don’t fit in school create a learning environment which works for them. They have taken the reins and developed a program we can all be proud of.” 

In its first year, the student body of SJMS created a mission statement, designed a logo, developed pillars of the school, chose a mascot and school colors, and developed a list of behaviors all staff and students should strive toward each day. 

Classes at SJMS are provided in a blended model. Students receive in-person instruction each day and have independent learning time throughout the week to work on assignments, receive individual tutoring and even move ahead in their class if they choose. 

SJMS educators develop curricula which centers around teaching fundamental skills applicable to the real world, such as a personal finance class in which students learn about interest rates, insurance, taxes and savings. 

Throughout the school year, students and staff take trips into the wilderness together and take part in service projects in an effort to give back to the community, see real-world examples of their classroom learning, and develop a stronger sense of community.

“What separates us from fully online schools is the opportunity to receive small group instruction from highly qualified teachers in each content area and our dedication to creating a supportive community,” Bellina said. 

Families with students who are struggling with the typical educational environment are encouraged to reach out to SJMS and discuss whether it is a good fit. To learn more about SJMS, visit the district’s website at sanjuanmountain.mypagosaschools.com.

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Private and Homeschool

While Archuleta School District offers excellent educational opportunities, some people relocating to Pagosa wish to enroll their children in a private school, online or blended school, or would like to homeschool their children. Pagosa Springs offers many private educational options, online and blended options, and homeschooling groups.

Pagosa Family School: Pagosa Family School is an Archuleta School District shared-schooling educational outreach program offered to all homeschool, private school and Archuleta School District students. PFS offers Spanish, art, drumline, choir and an exploratory class consisting of science, music and drama. Please visit Pagosa Family School on Facebook, visit the school district website at MyPagosaSchools.com or contact the Shared School Liaison at (970) 264-2228.

Pagosa Valor Academy: Pagosa Valor Academy is a University Model School for kindergarten through 12th grades. It combines the best traits of home education with the best traits of public school education. It is a family-oriented school with the core purpose of teaching kids from a biblical perspective while preparing college-ready young adults. Learn more at pagosavaloracademy.org. 

Our Savior Lutheran School: This early childhood school offers preschool through seventh grade in which every discipline is taught from the Christian worldview. All classes are taught using a Classical Christian Curriculum, which includes such classes as Latin, cursive, traditional math (no common core), phonics-based English, science, art and music. The school is located on three acres, complete with six classrooms, a gymnasium and two playground areas. Information is located at oslcpagosa.org.

Online and blended options: Online schooling options, many of which are tuition-free public schools, are gaining popularity. 

GOAL High School is a free public charter school and a Microsoft Showcase School. With more than 10 years in operation, GOAL serves ages 14-21. GOAL offers a blended learning format with online courses and student drop-in centers. Visit online at goalac.org.

A sampling of other popular tuition-free public online schools available in Pagosa include Southwest Colorado eSchool (southwestcoloradoeschool.org), K-12 schools (k12.com/colorado-online-schools), and Colorado Connections Academy (connectionsacademy.com/colorado-online-school). 

Pagosa also has a robust and diverse homeschooling community. Homeschooling families of all educational philosophies are invited to stay connected through Pagosa Homeschool Connection’s Facebook page. In addition, three homeschooling groups meet weekly throughout the school year. Classical Conversations of Pagosa Springs group (classicalconversations.com) follows a classical home-education model with weekly community days. Friday Co-Op offers academic classes and field trips for preschool through high school as participation dictates. Adventures à la Carte group gets together every week for social and enrichment activities such as hikes, sledding and other field trips. Families who are considering homeschooling for the first time or moving into Colorado are encouraged to review homeschooling laws in Colorado, available through HSLDA (hslda.org) and the Colorado Department of Education. 

For more information on these groups or for advice on additional homeschooling resources, contact Pagosa Homeschool Connection leaders at pagosahomeschoolconnection@gmail.com.


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Successful partnerships benefit schools and community

Illustration courtesy Reynolds Ash + Associates

Pagosa Springs High School offers multiple pathways to graduation aimed to help students be better prepared for what they want their future to be, whether heading off for postsecondary education before embarking on a career or heading into the workforce a little sooner.

The school’s career and technical education (CTE) program has grown over the years and now includes five pathways: agriculture, food and natural resources; building trades; business; computer science; and health science.

Those pathways encompass training to help lead students into careers in fields such as recreation and the outdoors, hospitality, tourism, government work, food service (restaurants and catering), property management, landscaping, greenhouse construction, game design, firefighting, construction and more.

According to the school’s website, some of the classes prepare students for a job directly after completion, while others put them on the pathway for careers with some additional training.

The programs, according to the school’s website, “often give you the opportunity to earn certifications that can help you to get a job. They will make you career and college-ready. Each of the CTE classes have been approved by the Colorado Community College System and organized by Career Pathway.”

Adding to the educational selection, each pathway also offers the opportunity for students to be a part of a related career and technical student organization. 

These organizations, the school district outlines, give students a chance to expand their knowledge beyond the classroom. The organizations include Future Business Leaders of America, the Colorado Technology Student Organization, Health Occupations Students of America, Future Farmers of America and SkillsUSA.

Soon, the school hopes to expand its campus with a building that will be the home of several of those pathways programs.

In February 2021, the Archuleta School District Board of Education gave the go-ahead to a volunteer-led nonprofit, Build Pagosa Inc., to begin fundraising for a CTE building that is slated to sit near the high school.

The one-story, 12,767-square-foot CTE building is expected to cost $3,018,300, with the estimated cost including soft costs and contingency landing at $4,147,875.

According to a document Build Pagosa produced to give to prospective donors, “The purpose of this collaboration is to create a modern and current vocational facility along with a CTE program that provides up-to-date training resulting in career certifications for our student body and community.”

The building will not be the first time the high school has benefited from a partnership with Build Pagosa.

The high school’s CTE program was given a boost several years ago when Build Pagosa formed, when a group of local builders identified the need for skilled construction workers and set out to find a solution for the problem.

That led one of their own, Tor Hessman, to become a teacher.

According to the prospective donor document, they told Pagosa Springs High School Principal Sean O’Donnell they “were experiencing a shortfall in the ability to hire a qualified workforce in the Pagosa Springs community. With the generous donations from the construction industry in the community, the school district was able to hire Tor and begin offering courses to the high school students,” the prospective donor document explains.

Now, with five years of the program in the books, Hessman teaches two levels of building trades, woodworking and design. Students from the building trades program have gone on to take part in a summer work program and obtain jobs, and even promotions, in the field.

To learn fundamentals, students within the building trades pathway craft things such as chicken coops and dog houses, which are then auctioned off in the community to raise funds for the next round of building materials. With the new facility, the program hopes to expand to building tiny homes, which would not only expand the knowledge of the students, but would also add to local housing options.

And the school is looking to continue to add to its CTE offerings, O’Donnell indicated, with hopes of having the teacher of the school’s upcoming horticulture class become CTE-certified to add that program to the CTE mix.

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