For a little over 1300 years the Town of Bluff has been more than just a wide spot on the San Juan River beneath the sandstone spires dubbed The Navajo Twins. Tradition tells a story that the twins are the prayer sticks belonging to Monster Slayer and Born for Water, two very powerful characters, perhaps the most important in Navajo mythology. In 2018 the small community became Utah’s newest town. A population of approximately 250 people now call Bluff home.
Linda Sosa of Bluff’s Town Council is working to balance tourism and quality of life for Bluff’s residents. With a little help from the San Juan County Economic Development and Visitors Services office Linda was able to target and maximize the reach of such a small community to the world. San Juan Counties own Cafeteria Program allowed the cost of promoting things like the Bluff Balloon Festival and Bluff Arts Festival to come from cooperative marketing grants instead of badly needed operating budget better utilized in paying for city services. Rip Maps for walking tours of the little town and a pocket visitors guide were paid for with funding from the Cafeteria Program. In all the Co-op grant program awarded over $22,000 to optimize search engines, promote the annual Bluff Art and Balloon Festival and redesign the website for BOB (Business Owners of Bluff) a site that gives visitors an online guide to all that Bluff has to offer. Ads promoting the community as a destination for visitors can be found on Facebook and other social media platforms as a result of funding from the grants.
Bluff Mayor Ann Leppanen is working hard to make the new town a success balancing quality of life for residents, the Bluff experience for visitors and prosperity for the merchants. According to Leppanen, Community Reinvestment Agency or CRA funding has been a big help to the small community. The new Bluff Dwellings Resort benefited from Utah Department of Transportation construction of a turn lane off US191 into their property. Safety was a big concern for trucks and others descending the hill from the north at just the point of entry to the new resort. UDOT was unwilling to reduce the speed limit and instead the turn lane was suggested. Funding for the improvement was located and sourced through San Juan County’s Community Reinvestment Agency (CRA).
Diana Davidson, owner of Cottonwood Steakhouse and also a member of BOB pointed out the fact that Natalie Randall, director of the San Juan County Economic Development and Visitor Services was able to provide direction to grants and funding for website development, and other things they needed. This provided budget where there was none, also it was huge that in some cases no cash match was required. “Natalie was able to dramatically expand our marketing budget (for Bluff) and I am eternally grateful for her putting us on that track.” Said Davidson. She also liked the fact that so much of the help Randall’s office provided was turnkey. The Rip map and community guide were created with input from BOB and those in Bluff but the elements such as photography and copy writing were provided by the Economic Development office.She stressed that Bluff wants prosperity but not at the cost of losing the feel of being a little village.
The State of Utah has a wide array of programs, grants and tax incentives to help grow San Juan County and your Economic Development office is a good place to start the process of getting funds. It’s not just businesses that can benefit, it’s also for 1300 year old villages that finally decide to become towns.