Grant denied for cultural tourism study

Christina M. Currie

Being denied a $12,000 grant isn’t going to stop Yampa Valley Economic Development Council members from pursuing cultural tourism opportunities. What it will do, however, is require them to be a little more creative in how they do that.

Rio Blanco County applied for a grant from the state’s Historical Fund on behalf of YVEDC.

The funds would have been used to hire a consultant who would have documented the area’s publicly accessible cultural tourism sites in a “reconnaissance survey.”

“We’re a little puzzled why it wasn’t funded,” said Winnie DelliQuadri, a member of Steamboat Springs’ intergovernmental services staff. “We followed up with the state’s historical staff, and based on feedback, we’re not sure we would change anything we wrote.”

Despite the setback, the YVEDC will move forward with its plans to have consultant Judy Walden return to the region and do another round of community meetings.

“She’ll help communities assess assets,” DelliQuadri said. It’s very much a community-based process. They’ll be asked what they think is a highlight of their community and what they’re interested in sharing.”

The initiative came from a series of workshops facilitated in September by Walden, a heritage tourism expert.

According to Walden, tourists are looking for more than just a simple getaway. They’re looking to see, touch and experience the past and embrace different cultural experiences.

Walden told workshop participants that economically promoting heritage tourism could benefit the region.

Towns in Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties, as well as the county governments, combined resources to create a $4,000 match for the grant application.

Now that the YVEDC has been notified that it didn’t receive the grant, governments will be asked whether the EDC can keep their contributions and use them to advance the project.

Individual communities will do their own assessments and will use the funds to hire Walden to conduct two community meetings to narrow a broad list of community cultural assets they want to share.

The Craig City Council has agreed to let the YVEDC keep its $800 contribution, but what other elected officials decide will not be known until the EDC’s Jan. 12 meeting. During the meeting, Walden’s proposal will be evaluated.

Cultural heritage tourism is traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.

According to Walden, the benefits of cultural heritage tourism are economic: new jobs and businesses, increased tax revenues, a diversified local economy, increased quality of life and preservation of a community’s unique character.

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

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