Tourism initiative flounders

State denies grant request

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In a blow to a fledgling tourism effort, a state agency has denied Yampa Valley Economic Development Council's request for $420,000 the group would have used to lure visitors to Northwest Colorado.

Council members said they were surprised and disappointed by a Department of Local Affairs decision to deny the grant request. Now the council is regrouping and redefining its goals.

The council has appointed a cultural heritage tourism committee to give the initiative focus and momentum, President Tom Gilchrist said.

Cultural heritage tourism targets a growing number of visitors who want to experience an area's culture and history.

Cultural heritage tourists don't want to be entertained. Rather, those tourists want to experience the culture and learn the history of an area, said Winnie DelliQuadri, a staff member with the council.

According to the Historic/Cultural Traveler's 2003 report, 81 percent of American adult travelers included culture or heritage activities on their trips in 2002.

Northwest Colorado's effort to attract such visitors began in September last year when tourism expert Judy Walden spoke to groups in Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties about the concept of cultural heritage tourism.

Area involvement in cultural heritage tourism reached new heights in March when nearly 80 residents from the three counties gathered to share the histories of their communities.

In May, participants took bus tours to become familiar with communities.

In June, participants met again to decide the focus of their initiative.

Little has happened since.

With the exception a few meetings organized by various communities, the regional effort is dormant.

Moffat County's cultural heritage committee met in August to discuss how well signs in Craig directed visitors to area attractions. Three people attended the meeting.

Ten communities and three counties endorsed the Dep--artment of Local Affairs grant request, marking the largest partnership the department had seen, DelliQuadri said.

"It looked good on paper, but it wasn't there in real life," Gilchrist said.

Much of the grant money --ach community would have received $20,000 --would have been used on projects such as creating interpretive signs, erecting historical markers or preparing sites for tourists.

Not having projects clearly defined could have been the reason the state denied the grant request, DelliQuadri said.

The council's tourism subcommittee plans to eventually meet with experts to learn about submitting successful grant requests.

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