MBA gets update on cultural tourism

Despite the denial of a state historical grant, the Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism group is moving forward.

The group consists of 10 communities in the three county regions of Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco County.

Winnie DelliQuadri, representative for Steamboat Springs, attended the Meeker Business in Action meeting Tuesday to give the group an update, share the consultant's assessment of the region and to ask for help.

"We need one contact person for every community to be the representative at the regional meetings," DelliQuadri said.

She asked that within the next two weeks, each community focus group choose someone who has an interest in promoting cultural heritage tourism and could commit to long-term involvement with the project.

In reviewing the report submitted by tourism consultant Judy Walden, she reminded the group that each community should refine its list, narrowing it down to what they are willing to share with future tourists.

"Cultural heritage tourism is fast becoming a huge part of the tourism industry, and the region has many of the elements that entice these kinds of travelers," DelliQuadri said. She said that according to Walden's report, Meeker is in a good position because of the number of lodging opportunities.

"Some of the other communities lack the lodging and retail opportunities," she said.

MBA chairman Tony Weiss questioned DelliQuadri as to why the group was not awarded the grant.

"I know several of us wrote letters, and it sounded so promising," Weiss said.

DelliQuadri said she did not know why.

"I can tell you we went over what we sent and believe we would have not done anything different," she said.

She viewed the grant loss as a minor setback and vowed that the group would move forward.

"Now is the time to build the group and move forward," she said.

In other business, MBA member Joe Fennessy commented about some of his personal concerns associated with all the proposed oil and gas exploration. He suggested the group host a public informational meeting with energy development company representatives present.

"There are a number of questions I think need (to be) answered," Fennessy said.

He said most people knew nothing, thought it was all talk or were freaked out that the growth would ruin the area. He said information was the key to ease some of the public speculation.

"What about jobs? Are they going to hire qualified locals or bring people in? Is this going to hurt us more than help our economy?" Fennessy asked.

Tony Weiss reported on a public input meeting he attended concerning the Roan Plateau exploration. The Roan Plateau is in Garfield County and is under pressure from gas companies to do additional natural gas drilling. The only access is through Rio Blanco County. The land is public and controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. Weiss said he wanted to voice his opinion and encouraged others to let BLM know what they think.

"If they move sagebrush, they should put it back and leave it (the land) better than they found it," he said.

Weiss encouraged residents to comment on the Web site at www.roanplateau.com.

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