Mesa: Mountain Living

Blink coffee shop, owned and operated by Natalie Aimes, is a popular gathering spot in Mesa.

There’s no McDonald’s, but the Drive-In near Collbran serves up a mean burger. There’s no mall, but the Padilla’s General Store in Mesa sells everything from doll clothing to fishing gear, groceries and dishes. There are no big subdivisions, but homeowners who want a rural setting and aren’t afraid of a little winter can find dream homes of many shapes and sizes near Mesa, Collbran or elsewhere in Plateau Valley.

Life may be slower-paced in the mountain communities, but that doesn’t mean nothing ever changes. New faces and places keep life interesting.

“The town of Collbran is great,” says Caleb Julious, who recently opened one of Collbran’s newest business, 24/7 Fitness and Tanning. “It’s good to work with a town that likes what you’re doing.”

Town officials aren’t the only ones who like what Julious is doing. He hoped that he’d have 40 members at this gym in the first month. He had 60 within the first two weeks. In addition to the latest equipment and weights, the fitness center also has a kids’ area that?s visible from the machines, so moms can bring their kids when they come to work out. There?s also a room for yoga or classes, but there are no classes scheduled yet.

The Drive-In, a long-standing Collbran business that changed ownership a year and a half ago, has seen some changes that have also been appreciated by locals and visitors.

“Business has been good,” say Paula Lynn, the owner of the restaurant. The Lynns have added onto the kitchen and the menu, offering a few stir-fry options.

“It’s been a pretty big hit,” she says, “but customers still want their burgers, too.” Rather than complain about the energy workers who frequently drive through town, Lynn saw a need and created a win-win solution by adding sack lunches to her morning menu. She appreciates the business, while the workers appreciate being able to pick up a good lunch in the morning.

The increase in energy activity has taken its toll on Collbran and the surrounding area, but the major companies doing business there are determined to be good corporate citizens.

“PXP, Delta and EnCana are the main players,” says Eric Bruton, road supervisor with Mesa County, “and all three have been great to work with; they’ve paid for damages on county roads. They’re coming to the table and cooperating with Mesa County.”

The companies have also tried to cooperate with the town of Collbran, particularly on the issue of having trucks drive through town on Main Street. The town trustees ultimately decided Main Street was better than the other options, but the issue isn’t entirely settled. “I plan on having another public meeting on it in January,” says Collbran Mayor Brad Osborn. “I still think there’s a need for truck chain-up areas.”

The energy industry has also created a huge need for temporary housing. Although many jobs in the industry are permanent, others are not. The hundreds of guys who build the pipelines and the processing plants need someplace to live during the course of the job. “That’s the hardest part for workers, just finding a place to live,” says Paul Shupe, a foreman with Abercrombie Pipeline Services.

Workers like Shupe are happy to call the Sundance RV Park in Mesa home. The park, which was seven years in the planning process and opened a year ago, is owned by Kathy Harris, who expected that her guests would be tourists who came to play on Grand Mesa.

“I wasn’t expecting to have so many long-term residences,” Harris says. She’s not complaining, however. When high gas prices over the summer kept tourists from visiting, her park remained full of workers. Because it’s so new, it was built according to the county’s latest codes and has adequate infrastructure to handle long-term guests.

Visitors and residents alike have enjoyed Blink Coffee Shop, another newer Mesa business. The coffee shop serves as a gathering place for locals, and also serves pastries, breakfast burritos, salads and sandwiches. The coffee shop has been so successful that the owners have decided to open Mesa Creek Wine and Spirits next door.

“It will be small but efficient,” says Natalie Aimes, one of the partners in the store, which is scheduled to open in mid-December. The liquor store will carry between 40-50 wine selections, with some local wines in the mix.

All of the mountain communities are served by Plateau Valley School District, which has one K-12 school, as well as the high school at the Collbran Job Corps. The school’s enrollment stands at 510 students, which includes pre-school and kindergarten students, and is about 20 more students than last year.

“We had quite a bit of growth in the elementary school,” says Greg Randall, the superintendent for the district.

The school brought back the vocational-ag program this year, which had been suspended several decades ago. Classes in the program include business classes, science classes related to the agriculture industry and vocational classes.

“That’s been a huge success,” says Randall. “Those classes are jam-packed. Agriculture is a big part of the community. The gas industry will come and go, but the ag people will be here forever.” That’s good news for the people who treasure rural life in the mountain communities.


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