Editorial: Moffat County history preserved at Museum of Northwest Colorado | CraigDailyPress.com

Editorial: Moffat County history preserved at Museum of Northwest Colorado

In the final days of December, the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners approved a supplemental budget including two actions, which, on the surface, appeared to be good news for the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

Appearances, however, can be deceiving.

First, commissioners OK'd a $6,682 appropriation for the museum, funds realized by way of grant revenues from the State Historic Fund Grant for a kiln assessment at the Greystone coke ovens. But this money had already been earmarked for the museum and spent for the assessment, so the appropriation was essentially a bookkeeping measure that resulted in no additional funding.

Second, commissioners approved a resolution to establish a Museum Fund, including provisions that the museum will keep all the mineral revenues it receives going forward, rather than transferring 20 percent of those revenues to the county’s general fund, as has been the case in the past.

According to museum director Dan Davidson, however, this fund was actually established several years ago, and the funds represent a reimbursement of moneys already budgeted.

The Craig Press ran the article about these actions under the headline, "Commissioners fund museum," and though the headline was technically accurate, we have since realized it may have led to erroneous conclusions.

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According to the 2018 Moffat County Budget — and factoring in the State Museum Fund Grant and anticipated reimbursement into the museum fund — the museum is still looking at a $100,000 revenue reduction as compared to 2017, a 46-percent cut which Davidson says is not sustainable.

We understand the budgetary constraints under which the county is operating, and we acknowledge the magnitude of the commissioners' task as they attempt to get the county back on sound financial footing.

And, while it might easily be argued that the museum doesn't qualify as an "essential service" and is, therefore, a logical place to enact the necessary cuts, we're not sure we completely buy into the argument, as a whole.

Instead, we would argue the museum does, in fact, provide essential services. We say this for several reasons.

First, the museum is a substantial attraction for Craig and Moffat County. During the past five years, the museum has averaged more than 12,000 visitors per year, with more than 5,000 guests coming from outside Moffat County. And while it is unlikely these visitors came to Craig for the sole purpose of touring the Museum of Northwest Colorado, the experience they enjoyed there may serve as at least one reason to return.

Second, Moffat County has a rich history, a history filled with gunfighters, pioneers, innovators and entrepreneurs, as well as just ordinary folk who had the courage and fortitude to build their lives in the Wild West. That history is our undergirding; it's what makes us what we are. As such, it should never be forgotten, and the museum is ensuring it never will be.

And finally — if we may be permitted a momentary lapse into slang — the museum is just plain cool. From the Utes of Northwest Colorado to the life of early Moffat County settlers to arguably the most extensive collection of cowboy and gunfighter equipment and apparel to be found anywhere, the museum is a living conduit to our collective past.

If you've never visited the Museum of Northwest Colorado, we urge you to do so; if you have visited, we urge you to return and to recommend it to friends, family and visitors.

And when you leave, be sure to drop a few dollars into the donation bucket.

The museum is ours, and it is truly among our most treasured assets. Perhaps we can't make up the funding shortfall, but we can — and should — support it in any way we can.

Editorial Board

Renee Campbell, publisher

Jim Patterson, editor

Andy Bockelman, assistant editor

Kaitlyn Marchbanks, community representative

Charlynne Wondra, community representative