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Historical societies unite

Groups come together to promote cultural, heritage tourism

Jennie Lay

A presentation about cultural and heritage tourism brought together historical societies from Yampa to Hahn’s Peak, and various tourism advocates in between Thursday at the historic Hahn’s Peak School.

Inspired by what they heard, by the end of the meeting residents from opposite ends of the county were plotting “S.W.A.T.” team meetings to pool their resources and tackle potential funding sources to enhance cultural and heritage tourism in Routt County.

Mark Rodman, executive director of Colorado Preservation Inc., a statewide historical preservation and advocacy group, said that cultural and heritage tourism means “traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the people of the past and the present.”

“That doesn’t mean Frontier Land at Disneyland,” Rodman said, stressing the need for authenticity. “Don’t fake history.”

Rodman shared some compelling statistics from a study by the Travel Industry Association regarding the economic benefits of advancing cultural and heritage tourism within a community. He said this kind of travel increased by 13 percent between 1996 and 2002. Compared to other travelers, cultural and heritage travelers stay an average of two extra nights using local lodging resources, spend more per trip and especially like shopping, he said. Sixty-eight percent of such people are traveling by car and at least one-third of them are families traveling with children.

“There’s much more interest in learning about the country — patriotism and such,” Rodman said.

Rodman piqued the crowd’s interest with ideas for collaboration, scenic byways and ways to find a fit between community and tourism. But the attention-grabber of the afternoon was his announcement of an upcoming pilot program that will grant one area of Colorado money to seed a comprehensive cultural and heritage tourism plan.

“Frankly, I think Routt County would have a good shot at one of these things,” Rodman told the group. “How do you tie Oak Creek to Hahn’s Peak, and bring Perry-Mansfield into that, to see all the different rich heritage. Find a way to pull all those groups together. They want to see that everybody is included.”

Historic Routt County representative Arianthe Stettner said her organization is working in that direction already and hopes to work with all the local players to advance a cultural and heritage tourism plan.

“This is something we can all see happening soon,” said Tread of Pioneers Museum Director Candace Lombardo. You can envision what the Web site, the brochure and the campaign should look like, she said.

“Now that we have the county mill levy money, we wanted to get off on the right foot,” Hahn’s Peak Historical Society member Shaunna Watterson said at the beginning of the meeting, referring to the voter-approved support for the county’s museums.

“Let’s all get together and get it done,” she said.

–To reach Jennie Lay call 871-4210

or e-mail jlay@steamboatpilot.com


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