For months, residents throughout Northwest Colo--rado have been identifying the treasures that make their communities special. They gathered Friday at Colorado Mountain College to tie those treasures together, and they will meet again today.
The Share Your Heritage workshop, coordinated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is the next step in a regional effort to capitalize on tourists interested in experiencing the history and culture of the region.
The program, sponsored by the Yampa Valley Economic Development Council, involves 10 communities in Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. Representatives from each community have been taking an inventory of museums, historical buildings and streets, unique events, wildlife and environmental areas of interest.
The goal of the workshop is to develop themes that encompass those assets and also determine how communities should be "visitor ready."
"It's about how we put this together in a way that reflects who we are but also is appealing to visitors," said Amy Webb, program director for the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Northwest Colorado was one of four cultural heritage tourism regions chosen for the workshop, which featured national cultural heritage tourism experts and was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the USDA Rural Development Office and local organizations.
The cultural heritage tourism group's commitment and work helped garner it a spot in the workshop, Webb said.
She emphasized that North--west Colorado communities, because of their remoteness, need to have authentic, compelling experiences to attract destination tourists, who tend to be well-educated, well-traveled and savvy, Webb said.
"People are very much looking for value-added, interactive experiences," she said.
Local cultural heritage tourism efforts coincide with the Colorado Tourism Office's work to establish a statewide cultural heritage tourism program using a $550,000 grant from the Colorado Historical Society.
Scott Campbell, heritage tourism program manager with the Tourism Office, said Colorado has not seen the rebound in heritage tourism that other parts of the nation have experienced.
"The images visitors have is (that) Colorado doesn't have a lot of cultural or heritage options," he said.
At the same time, a state cultural heritage tourism study indicates most tourists highly approved of their Colorado vacations, he said.
"Obviously, we're doing something right," Campbell said. "It's just a matter of getting their word out."
Vicki Munson, a cultural heritage tourism specialist in Montana, shared the challenges and successes of cultural heritage tourism efforts in her state.
Among the pitfalls were communities that didn't cooperate and dilemmas about whether to feature certain aspects of Montana history -- such as logging and mining -- that are embroiled in modern controversy.
Among the successes was "Hands of Harvest," a guidebook steering visitors to artists, craftspeople, bed and breakfasts, farms and ranches and other attractions "indigenous" to Northcentral Montana. More than 100 businesses are featured in the book.
In Northwest Colorado, partnerships with organizations such as the Community Agriculture Alliance are aim--ed at including locally made products and experiences in cultural heritage tourism marketing.
The Share Your Heritage Workshop was limited to several representatives from each community. Regular community CHT meetings are open to the public. For more information, call Winnie DelliQuadri at 871-8257.