Highlighting culture and energy Moffat County to boost tourism

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Moffat County long has thrived because of the energy industry — the economic foundation of the community nearly is inseparable from its culture.

Tourism organizations are looking to highlight that energy history.

Nancy Kramer, program coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism Project, partnered with community tourism entities across the state to develop cultural heritage tourism and create an energy trail route as part of her effort to exemplify that particular brand of tourism.

“The bottom line for cultural heritage tourism (is for) people who want to travel and learn more about a community. Along with experiencing a place, it is also experiencing a kind of life,” she said.

Kramer has been working to boost the tourism of Northwest Colorado with NWCCHT since 2009 and sought support from grant funding and tourism organizations such as the Moffat County Tourism Association.

One of the larger projects associated with NWCCHT’s overall goal is the Energy Trail, a route that would take tourists around Northwest Colorado’s energy hotspots, Kramer said.

Melody Villard, tourism director for MCTA, partnered with NWCCHT because she wanted to expand Moffat County’s cultural heritage tourism.

MCTA contributed nearly $62,000 to NWCCHT since 2009 in the form of grant match funding, project support and in-kind donations.

NWCCHT since has published and distributed comprehensive historical tourism brochures, set up displays and the organization is making headway on the Energy Trail.

The brochure packets are thick — packed with cards related to about 18 communities in Northwest Colorado that detail the history and particulars of each of those areas.

“One of the things that I think is helpful, is we don’t just talk about what these communities have and why they’re tied together, but why they’re here in the first place,” Villard said.

That reason is energy, she added.

NWCCHT could start on the Energy Trail, an approximately $115,000 project, within the year, Kramer said, and it would take only another year to finish.

The result would be a route travelers could follow to learn about the geology, business and culture around energy in Colorado, Villard said.

“When you look through the different communities; it’s all tied (up with) that energy, what resources we found in the area and what resources we could create economies around,” Villard said.

In Moffat County, the Energy Trail would help travelers identify significant energy spots along U.S Highway 13, such as the Empire Coal mine — shut down for about a couple decades — but still on fire from a flame that tore through the coal seam before the mine closed.

“There is still a portion of that coal seam that’s burning,” Villard said.

All along the highway, there is evidence of the energy below the surface, she said.

“You’ll see some of the coal striations along the highway from Craig to Hamilton,” Villard said.

Contact Erin Fenner in 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.

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