How do preservation funds help? Behind the heads

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Q. How has Routt County benefited through grants from the State Historical Fund?

A. In the past 12 years, Routt County has been one of the most aggressive rural areas seeking State Historical Fund grants. Starting from a preservation interest at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, Historic Routt County was formed.

This organization has led a valley-wide effort to successfully seek more than $2 million in grant funding. Each of these grant dollars generates a local value six times over through related work in structural assessment, material purchases, and construction work.

An intangible value is the retention of community character and the uniqueness of appearance that sets us apart from "every other town, USA."

Q. How important is historic preservation in generating tourism?

A. Documented studies show that the "cultural tourist" (one who travels to study or view historical areas, appreciate the arts, etc.) stays longer and spends more visitor dollars.

Colorado, with its decade of focused investments in historic resources, has broadened its tourist market. Besides the recreational visitor and the scenery seeker, the state is attracting a growing number of cultural tourists.

Q. What are some of the more pressing local historic preservation projects in the works and why is timing important in preserving historical buildings?

A. Historic Routt County has just completed an ambitious list of partnering projects: the Mad Creek Barn, Rock Creek Stage Stop, downtown bank building, Catamount Interpretive Signage, and more than 70 county site surveys.

In the works are the Howelsen Hill Tow House, the Clark School, Delaney Barn and 20 more site surveys. The organization is on the verge of developing and prioritizing a 10-year plan for preservation of sites and buildings, making every historic resource a potential project.

The timeliness in Colorado and our area relates to our history. In 1990, the voters of the state approved a constitutional amendment to earmark 28 percent of gaming revenues for historic preservation, making Colorado the leader in the nation.

This priority came approximately one hundred years after the heavy influx of settlers, miners, and industrialists had done early development in Colorado. It is very critical in timing since a century of seasonal changes, high altitude, and harsh weather threatens historic buildings and notable landmarks.

Look at our own area: Askew structures, missing roof sections, and inadequate foundations give visible evidence to deterioration and eventual collapse. Historic buildings cannot be put on a "wait until later" list; they simply melt away.

Q. How will changes made to the State Historical Fund impact Routt County?

A. If the voter-mandated preservation grant funds are taken away, it will be a sad day for Routt County.

Through historic preservation educational efforts, local property owners, governmental officials and residents are aware and supportive of projects.

Without state funding, opportunities to sustain the effort would be difficult with just local dollars. Routt County has received state and national attention for our diligent preservation work.

We will no longer be a rural prototype in this country for historic preservation.

Q. In the face of sweeping budget cuts, do you feel the money dedicated to historic preservation could be better spent elsewhere?

A. I think the consequences of such a proposal have not been carefully researched.

There are other solutions, such as Sen. Jack Taylor's video gaming proposal, that should be considered as a possibility for funding tourism.

To take the historic preservation granting fund that helps fuel tourism and preserves the unique character of Colorado does not seem to be fiscally sound.

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