Friday, February 11, 2005
There's a growing breed of tourists that seeks more than powder-laden slopes and meandering mountain trails.
So-called "cultural heritage" tourists are interested in the history and quirks that make communities special. They gravitate toward cozy inns and charming restaurants and will stay a few extra days to peruse local museums, tour old mining sites or view wildlife.
"Heritage travelers stay longer, they'll spend more, and they'll do things that are unique about a place," said Arianthe Stettner, president of Historic Routt County.
A series of meetings next week will explore natural, cultural and historic assets Routt County communities would like to share with visitors.
The meetings will be held Thursday in Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Hahn's Peak, and Friday in Yampa and Oak Creek. Anybody interested in promoting heritage tourism in these communities is invited to attend.
"My hope for the outcome is there will be a lot of community people that will take a vested interest in attending this meeting so they can be included in what this is about," said Noreen Moore, business director of the Steamboat Springs Economic Development Council.
The meetings, which also will be held in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, are part of an effort to promote cultural heritage tourism in Northwest Colorado.
Spearheaded by the Yampa Valley Economic Development Council and other organizations, the process included a similar set of discussions last fall.
The upcoming meetings will bring more residents and organizations -- including agricultural, business, educational and environmental groups -- to the table.
"One of the wonderful things about heritage tourism is that it draws into tourism people that have a deep pride in their community, but don't see a way they can participate in tourism," said Judy Walden, president of the Walden Mills Group, which specializes in community-based tourism development.
Walden is facilitating the Northwest Colorado heritage tourism effort and has helped with similar projects in the southeast and southwest regions of the state.
Walden was impressed by the pride Routt County residents expressed about their communities last fall.
"It is so touching to see how much people care about their community and how much they want to share that on their own terms," she said. "It's their voices that get heard and not someone else's interpretation of what they have."
It's often surprising for residents to realize people will visit a place specifically to learn about its heritage and unique qualities, Walden said.
"For them, it's a real eye-opener that many people travel to make those kind of connections with places and people," she said.
The state has earmarked about $550,000 for statewide cultural tourism efforts. Northwest Colorado eventually may qualify for some of those funds; however, the state still is developing the concept and criteria for the program, Stettner said.
In the meantime, the Yampa Valley Economic Development County has received a resource grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The grant will bring several experts to the region for a "Share Your Heritage" workshop in June.
Northwest Colorado is one of only four regions in the nation receiving the grant, Stettner said.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail email@example.com