Outdoor Retailer - May 2021 - 36

Field Notes: The Outdoor Economy

The town of Trinidad, Colorado, used to top the lists of worst places
in the state, but, with some vision, it is moving away from a boomand-bust economy and embracing the sustainable promise of
gravel cycling. By Juan Alberto DelaRoca
HAVE YOU EVER IMAGINED YOURSELF WILLing to live in an economically distressed rural
community? I jumped into one unexpectedly
in 2016. Unexpectedly because I had not been
fully aware nor appreciative of the challenges
that came along with living and working in a
place like Trinidad, Colorado.
A long-overlooked community for many
years, Trinidad, population 8,080, survived as
a classic Western town, reliant on a naturalresource extraction industry for most of its
existence. Yet, when I pulled off the highway
into town in the winter of 2015-16 while on
a snowboard trip, it was hard to resist feeling
an attraction to what I saw. Once you actually get off I-25 at the Colorado-New Mexico
border, the wide-open spaces, dark skies, cool
downtown, and creative culture here hit you-
Trinidad is beautiful, and, it struck me, a place
where I could live. That was a crazy thought
since, for years, Trinidad has reliably topped
the lists of the worst places to live in Colorado.
But, not long after pulling off the highway, I
encountered miles of dirt roads and the as-ofyet-untapped potential to attract new residents and foster a community of cyclists in a
spot where bike culture didn't exist. Trinidad
had " gravel bike destination " written all over it.
Trinidad was founded in the 1860s, and its
history was closely aligned with the commerce
along the Santa Fe Trail. Prosperity came-and
then dried up, over and over again. The growing
gravel-cycling trend here has the potential to
diversify a historically boom-and-bust community, while also creating a desirable place to live,
work, and play. And it comes at the right time.
New Mexico just legalized recreational cannabis, which puts a dent in the booming business
of visitors coming over the border to Trinidad's
dispensaries from the Land of Enchantment

36 OUTDOOR RETAILER

/ May 2021

that had kick-started the revitalization of
Trinidad in 2014. Now Trinidad ran the risk of
becoming a victim of boom-and-bust again.
But bikes can change the economic fortunes of a town. We know that by looking at
countless communities across the United
States-from Fruita, Colorado, to Bentonville,
Arkansas-where local economies are thriving. Trinidad is better prepared to weather
the bust because of the growing popularity of
gravel cycling. Outdoor recreation is now the
future of this town. With its surrounding lake,
river, and mountain setting, Trinidad will never be a sleepy rural town again. The opening of
Fishers Peak State Park makes this possible.
It's size at 19,200 acres and close proximity to
downtown Trinidad means you can expect a

-Juan Alberto DelaRoca is a longtime Colorado resident who migrated
to Trinidad in 2016 after living in the
Boulder/Denver area. He founded Backshop
Bicycle Travel Supply, an experiential
(Event+Retail+Travel) consulting agency
with a focus on the destinations of ColoradoNew Mexico and Guatemala. Over the last
several years, DelaRoca has led efforts to establish Trinidad as a leading global gravelbike destination.
NEW KID IN TOWN
DelaRoca saw the
promise of gravel
roads in a town
others overlooked.

Courtesy Juan Alberto DelaRoca

Out of the Grind

pretty phenomenal cycling experience to only
get better in the years ahead.
Every time I stare up at the peak from my
backyard, it brings a smile of gratitude to my
face. When I got here in 2016, there was no
guarantee this move would pay off; it was a
high-risk high-reward scenario. But here
is what I would say to those who ask me if
I would do it again: yes. Because living in
an economically distressed community affords one an endless number of possibilities
to create. A clean canvas to experiment and
produce something special, which is where
Trinidad finds itself heading into the summer of 2021. O.R.


http://www.backshopbikes.com/ http://www.backshopbikes.com/

Outdoor Retailer - May 2021

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