Yampa considers heritage tourism

Northwest Colorado could apply for state funds to start region-wide program

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As a group of a dozen people talked last week about what Yampa is and what it offers, one thing was obvious to facilitator Judy Walden.

"I can feel in this room an incredibly deep sense of pride in the community," Walden said.

Walden is president of the Walden Mills Group, which specializes in community-based tourism development. She was in Yampa on Tuesday to guide a conversation about whether the community would want to promote heritage tourism.

The Yampa meeting was one of a series last week to see whether Northwest Colorado wants to apply for state funds to start a region-wide heritage tourism program.

About $550,000 in state funds have been earmarked to promote heritage tourism, said Noreen Moore, business resource director for Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs. If grant applications are accepted, and Northwest Colorado decides it wants to apply, it should be ready to apply quickly, Moore said.

Heritage tourism typically attracts a class of tourists who are older, have money to spend and want to experience the historical, cultural, archaeological, scenic, recreational and natural assets of an area, Walden said.

"You've got people whom we call a high-value traveler," Walden told the group. "They're looking for what's authentic. They're looking for what's real. And they'll pay a high (price) for it."

While in Yampa, Walden toured the area with several other interested people to see some of its heritage. She called the tour "thrilling."

In a brainstorming session, she laid out Yampa's assets that could attract heritage tourism.

For example, for historic assets, the town boasts many historic buildings, some of which date back to the turn of the century, historic ranches and associated structures such as fences, corrals and barns, a town museum and a nearby stagecoach stop that has been restored.

Its cultural assets include ranching, railroading and mining, logging and framing, churches, women's groups, current traditions such as the Fourth of July parade, and the history behind the American Indians who first lived in the area.

And for recreation, there is hiking, horseback riding, fishing, skiing and ice fishing, just to name a few.

There are many things about the area that could attract tourists, Walden said, but that doesn't mean the town should focus on such business.

"Just because you've got them doesn't mean you should share them," she said.

Town residents need to decide whether they are interested in promoting cultural tourism, and if so, how and what they would promote.

Town Board member Arlene Porteu said she could see the benefits of heritage tourism, as well as some potential downfalls. Compared to its Steamboat Springs and Vail neighbors, Yampa is an authentic small town; there are cattle drives through town, because cattle have to be moved from one place to another.

"That is Yampa, so it's hard to share it," she said.

Wendy Moreau, director of the Yampa Egeria Museum, said the discussions were helpful to outline the potential the community has.

But with heritage tourism could come dilemmas, she said, such as potential development that is unwanted.

"Yampa isn't looking to become a big tourist destination," Moreau said.

But, she added, "It has such a rich history, it needs to be shared, it needs to be told, and it would be good for the town."

The meetings also were held in Hahn's Peak, Oak Creek, Phippsburg, Craig, Meeker and Steamboat Springs.

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