Boom time in Fairplay |

Boom time in Fairplay

FAIRPLAY – The hamlet of Fairplay, seat of Park County and home to many Summit County workers, is going through a growth spurt.

The once-sleepy little town on the south side of Hoosier Pass soon will sport three new subdivisions, a supermarket, a strip mall and a campground, all of which recently began construction.

Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) crews planned to install the town’s first traffic signal – at highways 285 and 9 – this month, and the first phase of a recreation center is under way.

And those are just the plans for this summer.

“These developers must know something we don’t,” said Mayor Tammy Quinn. “We are majorly growing. But again, we’re trying to manage it.”

In the past year, two buildings – one houses retail, the other a museum office – were built on either side of the town’s museum. The Park County Ambulance District got a new building.

The town also has plans to install gutters, drainage systems and sidewalks along its main street in April of 2004. And officials are keeping an eye on CDOT’s efforts to widen Highway 285 from Bailey west to Fairplay.

Work in progress

Construction is forging ahead in the private sector, as well.

Sam Mick, a homebuilder, is making his debut in the commercial construction realm with an 11,000-square-foot grocery store at the intersection of the two highways at the south end of town. He hopes to open the store this year.

Mick also plans to build a strip mall on the 17 acres that will house the grocery store, and he has approval to build a campground along the banks of the South Platte River, which runs through town.

Voters approved a bond issue in November 2001 to pay for construction of a recreation center. Excavation began last fall, and workers are installing infrastructure this summer.

Real estate brokers for the 300 units at Elk Meadows are touting their townhomes as second-home getaways and affordable housing for worker bees in Park and Summit counties and anywhere else within commuting distance.

The Elk Meadows subdivision alone will almost double the size of Fairplay. Brokers predict the $199,999 townhomes will resell for $350,000 in a decade.

“I believe the town is ready for progression and growth,” Mayor Quinn said. “Yet the board is being politely cautious. We don’t want big stucco buildings going up. We want to make them blend into the old.”

Construction on two other residential projects also will begin soon.

The growth momentum began under the reign of the last mayor, and Quinn said she’s trying to keep it going. Town officials, she said, want to see a business district along Highway 285 while maintaining the historic flavor of downtown, which is on Highway 9.

“People in Fairplay are taking great pride in their town,” Quinn said. “It’s cleaned up, the yards are pretty, we’ve made improvements to the town’s ditch and we’re going to put in new ordinances to allow people to water their lawns. We’re bringing Fairplay into this century.”

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Fairplay boasts a population of 710.

But Quinn, who has “made it through four winters” in the town, said people there suspect that number is only half the actual population. Throw

second-homeowners into the mix, and she believes there are 13,000 people to support the amenities in town.

It’s about time

Existing merchants say it’s about time.

Some, including Linda Hoffman, owner of the Fairplay Country Store, said it was difficult to get approval for new businesses under former town boards.

“The board is changing, which is helping a lot,” she said. “We want all this stuff in town, but the tax base, the people living in town, they can’t afford it. We need to get businesses in. Until we do that, we’ll be dying. We’re sorely in need of places to live here, but we need businesses to help that along. If not, people will go elsewhere. As it is, everyone whizzes right through town. They don’t even know we’re here.”

Hoffman hopes to become the operator of the new grocery store and would then convert the country store into a clothing and staples store.

Is it all good?

The town has its share of naysayers who would prefer it remain the same, but they’re in the minority, merchants say.

Dean Schuler, manager of the Fairplay Hotel and owner of the Snowshed antique store, welcomes the growth – and commends the town for its careful approach.

“If you come over and look, you don’t really see the changes,” he said. “But there’s a lot of positive growth. I notice it the most by the number of youngsters out on the playground. It’s great.”

“Fairplay is one of the most wonderful and best-kept secrets in Colorado,” Quinn said.

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