Paonia Colorado: A Sustainable Living Community

Learn about Paonia Colorado, a sustainable living community. With nearby national parks and wilderness areas, there’s no limit to the ways you can enjoy the fresh mountain air in Paonia. This great place is small, but the quality of life experienced by its residents is huge.

| August/September 2007

Rural landscapes surround the town of Paonia, Colorado.

Rural landscapes surround the town of Paonia, Colorado.

Photo by Celia Roberts

A great place to live you've never heard of is Paonia Colorado, a sustainable living community. Paonia has nearby national parks and wilderness areas, providing a quality of life few get to experience.

Paonia Colorado: A Sustainable Living Community

This little western slope gem was first established as a home base for coal miners, many of whom still occupy the bungalow houses of the downtown area. There also are many artists and musicians, merchants and new age post-hippies living in and around town. It’s a wonderful little place without traffic lights, where most people drive as if they were in their ’90s — no one seems to be in a hurry. The countryside surrounding Paonia includes many world-class apple, peach and cherry orchards, a few organic vegetable farms and vineyards, and the ranches of families that have been in the cattle business for generations.

Environmentalist Allison Elliot says, “We’re a diverse population, but we have a common goal: to make Paonia a great place.” The Blue Sage Center for the Arts has a similar goal. This nonprofit, community-run facility is housed in two classic buildings on Grand Avenue, the main drag through town. Whether you’re looking for a place to take yoga classes, have a wedding, or see a concert or art exhibition, the Blue Sage is it. On a typical night, local musician Mike Gwinn and the North Fork Flyers might be on stage, or local children performing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Life in Paonia is a blend of the old and new. An example of the old is the Bross Hotel, a painstakingly restored 1906 hotel furnished with antiques and handmade quilts — a great place to stay if you want to feel the slow, steady pulse of Paonia. Examples of the new are businesses that have chosen Paonia as home: Solar Energy International, which offers hands-on classes in photovoltaic technology, and Chaco Sandals, an employer of about 150 jobs. According to marketing director Brian Scranton, Chaco pays its employees to bike to work and volunteer in the community.

Do you live in Paonia? Have you visited? Please post your comments below.

Paonia, Colorado

Population: 1,589
Climate: January average temperature: 25 degrees. July average: 72 degrees.
Median House Value: $124,300
Natural Assets: Great rafting, fishing and camping at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and West Elk Wilderness Area; bicycling on beautiful country roads.
Sustainable Initiatives: Citizen activism (such as the Western Slope Environmental Resource Council) to protect Paonia from over development and create local self-reliance.

marcy hale
11/23/2010 11:05:51 PM

I grew up in Paonia, moving away after 7th grade in 1969. Relocated to Grand Junction so enjoyed the exquisite scenery just as much. I get homesick for a small town as I live in the SF Bay area now. Paonia is a great family town with great values and morals.

10/10/2010 5:54:12 PM

Beyond being an idealic little town to call home, one of my favorite memories of Paonia is its many little churches. The Sacred Heart Catholic Church is unmatched if you are seeking a community based spiritual experience. Even though I no longer live in Paonia, I still try an attend their Christmas Musical each December. It is a moving experience.

rosemary diggins
7/26/2010 4:30:50 PM

I lived in Paonia from 1973 to may 1st 1995 22 years of pure bliss I did not want to move from there . at all I absolutly loved it But a wife must go where her husbands job takes him . i lived 3 miles from town on hadley lane . had a love for that area that will never fade. Now im a old lady and disabled all i can do is dream of going back GOD Bess you Paonis I'll always love you and your people . Rosemary

9/12/2008 12:14:29 PM

I lived in Paonia for nearly 5 years back in the 80's. It was fantastic then and still is, as I have been back a few times. It will be home again one day! Charles

8/2/2007 10:38:52 AM

I have just returned to California after my second visit to Paonia to see my old friend Dan . I was born in Covina California in 1945 and grew up among the citrus trees and the abundent outdoor life I was lucky enough to grow up in . The small town deal. Paonia is to me like they turned back the clock 75 years in time with the only difference being they drive new cars and the fishing spots and outdoor life are over the top . Oh , best best of all , the people you will meet are the greatest !! I will be moving there someday soon. Rich

7/30/2007 3:51:10 PM

Took me 10 years of searching to find my western dream area. Left the Big City City 4 years ago and love it here! No stop lights for 30 miles, farms, orchards and VIEWS everywhere. Amazing climate and enough music/arts for a splash of culture. All around finest area in the west. Dan

7/28/2007 7:12:06 PM

I live here and I LOVE this place! If you've not had a chance to wander down through the north fork valley, then you are really missing out. It's the last great place in this great state...

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