SOUTH FORK- In a work session held by the Rio Grande County Commissioners Monday, June 22, Rio Grande County Clerk Cindy Hill spoke to commissioners about a possible petition by the Town of South Fork to include a marketing district question on the November ballot. The question would be posed to property owners in the 81154 ZIP code for approval before having the question placed on the November ballot.
Over the last two years, the Town of South Fork has worked with Rio Grande County trying to determine how much tourism tax is being issued by the Rio Grande Tourism board to each municipality in the county and sought an increase due to the fact that South Fork is home to the majority of lodging within the county.
In 2019, South Fork was issued just over $51,000 to be used for their marketing and advertising. In the spring of 2018, town officials began to look back through the history of the tourism allocations and realized that the town was receiving only a small portion of funding from the Rio Grande Tourism Board compared to other communities that also received funding. It was at that time that the town decided to approach the Rio Grande County Commissioners, who were the overseeing board for the tourism fund, and to request that they consider allowing South Fork to have local community members serve on the tourism board in order to represent the town.
The funds that were received were put to good use through marketing strategies that have been proven to work efficiently and the town has seen a huge increase in tourism over the past two years. Now, the town is seeking further funding through forming its own tourism marketing district which they hope to put on the ballot in November. According to Hill, the town would need to have the petition signed by property owners in the 81154 ZIP code by Sept. 4 and that if it is not done soon, it may be too late. “The timeframe is really short for this to be accomplished. I have not received the petition which has to be signed by property and business owners and it will take some time to verify the signatures in time for the September deadline. I just wanted commissioners to know where we are on this,” said Hill.
Commissioners did state that the Rio Grande Tourism Board has fallen to the wayside in light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and as of the June 22 discussion, only had two members out of the nine needed for the board to be in compliance with their bylaws. Commissioner Gene Glover opted to take the lead on the Tourism Board project and stated that he would begin working to get a list of potential candidates to serve on the board for consideration ready.
Commissioners decided to table the discussion about the South Fork Marketing district until the petition was signed and ready for approval.