Community Agriculture Alliance: Heritage tourism role expands

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— In fall 2008, the Community Agriculture Alliance was awarded a grant to assist in the development of a Cultural Heritage Tourism program for Northwest Colorado. The program will encompass the counties of Rio Blanco, Routt, Moffat and Jackson counties and 11 communities throughout the region.

An impressive list of partners including local governments, nonprofit organizations, federal and state agencies, educational institutions, chambers of commerce, visitor bureaus, community representatives and individuals have come together to support the project with personal, professional and cash resources. Such collaboration can be rare. But the respect and enthusiasm shared by the more than 50 participants in this project easily will be held up as a model for future regional projects.

The wisdom and vision the Community Agriculture Alliance board of directors exhibited in expanding CAA's role in our community and region are commendable. Forward thinking, especially in these challenging economic times, is essential.

The purpose of this project is to achieve three key objectives in the initial phase of cultural heritage tourism development in Northwest Colorado: 1) Heritage site inventorying and visitor readiness assessment; 2) interpretive planning; and 3) marketing product development. Marketing product development will include creation of a brand for the regional program, brochure/collateral materials including trip itineraries and maps, and creation of a Web site. Anticipated outcomes of the project will diversify our pre-eminent industry of tourism through increased market share of cultural and agri-tourism customer spending that will directly benefit local economies throughout the region.

Noble Erickson's team of Jackie Noble and Mimi Mather was selected to facilitate the strategic planning, marketing product development and interpretive planning for the Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism project. Noble and Mather each have worked on numerous projects in Northwest Colorado and have extensive experience in heritage projects in Colorado and throughout the West - helping community tell their stories and share their assets in a respectful, yet compelling way. At the June 24 kick-off workshop, the team facilitated the regional partners in establishing interpretive themes and began the first stages of branding for the program. Look for the regional brand that will be unveiled early this fall.

Since my arrival in 1974, I have not witnessed such excitement surrounding a regional project. There will be evaluation tools to measure the success of this program throughout the years - and NWCCHT will be successful. To this end, we will have the Community Agriculture Alliance to thank in elevating community building and economic development through this regional effort.

Honor the CAA's leadership in this initiative and all of their community building projects by becoming a member today. Forward your gift to Community Agriculture Alliance, P.O. Box 774234, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477.

If you want to learn more about the Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism program, call Nancy Kramer at 879-4370.

Kramer is the Northwest Colorado Heritage Tourism project coordinator.

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