Community Agriculture Alliance: Historic preservation in Routt: Who does what?

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As Executive Director of Historic Routt County, I need to be well-versed with the goals of many organizations so that strategic relationships can be formed to achieve mutual goals more easily. But as a newcomer to the scene of historic preservation here, it was a bit daunting to know where to start. Of course, the word “newcomer” used in conjunction with “historic preservation” is a relative term, isn’t it? But if you’re anything like me, it can be confusing to know who does what and why when it comes to historic preservation here. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot quickly from the gracious people that lead these organizations, who share the same preservation goals as Historic Routt County.

Historic preservation is defined as “the act or process of applying measures to sustain the existing form, integrity and material of a building or structure.” (“The Language of Preservation” by William J. Murtagh, p. 5). Moreover, a July 2005 Colorado Historical Foundation report titled “The Economic Benefits of Historic Preservation in Colorado” explains that “historic preservation is not only about protecting and appreciating the past. Historic preservation is a key strategy for successful community planning and economic development. … Preservation creates jobs and income. Since 1981, rehabilitation activities in Colorado have created almost 29,000 jobs and generated more than $2 billion in direct and indirect economic impacts. Even more impressive, in a recent year, heritage tourism in Colorado created $3.4 billion in direct and indirect economic impacts and another 60,964 jobs throughout the state.” But I digress — the economic benefits are the subject of a separate column.

With the list of obvious benefits, both cultural and economic, it’s easy to see why there are several key organizations in Routt County that have a historic preservation focus. Here’s a brief overview of who they are and what they do:

The Historic Preservation Advisory Committee is a citizen board appointed by the Steamboat Springs City Council that reviews rehabilitation and demolition requests on buildings in Steamboat Springs more than 50 years old, certifies state income tax credits for local rehabilitation projects and reviews city sales tax rebate requests for projects on historic properties.

The Routt County Historic Preservation Board consists of Routt County residents who are appointed by the Routt County Board of Commissioners. They review properties being nominated for the Routt County Register of Historic Properties quarterly.

The Museum & Heritage Fund Advisory Board is a citizen board appointed by the Routt County Commissioners to review grant applications to the Mill Levy Capacity-Building Fund. They meet twice a year. Mill levy entities are HRC and Routt County museums that are entitled by a public vote in November 2003 to receive a portion of a property tax mill levy. Funding from the mill levy and the board have enabled Historic Routt County to undertake such projects as the Yock Family Cabin restoration last summer with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and a 2010 Nominations Initiative, which will feature two upcoming workshops where residents can learn how to prepare nominations to a historic register.

Historic Routt County is a nongovernmental, 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization with a mission to preserve the historic character of Routt County communities and rural areas through historic designation assistance, preservation projects, historic structure assessments, education and advocacy and documentation and technical support for rural properties.

Hopefully this crash course has provided some direction and clarity for the maze that can be historic preservation in Routt County. I want to mention, too, that the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County have preservation staff and planners that are enormously supportive and effective in accomplishing historic preservation work in the region. All of these organizations work together to protect and to preserve our past, enabling us to keep focused on who we are and what matters to us as we move forward in these ever-changing times.

Meg Tully, CAE, is the executive director of Historic Routt County and owner of Nonprofit Know How, which provides services to nonprofits.

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