Chimney Rock looks for rise in tourist visits

Supporters seek declaration of monument designation

A national-monument designation for the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area would bring an additional $1.2 million from tourism to the region within five years, according to a study by Denver-based BBC Research & Consulting. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of San Juan National Forest Pagosa Ranger

A national-monument designation for the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area would bring an additional $1.2 million from tourism to the region within five years, according to a study by Denver-based BBC Research & Consulting.

Designating the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area a national monument would bring an additional $1.2 million from tourism to the region within five years, according to a study.

Done by Denver-based BBC Research & Consulting, it was commissioned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Supporters of making Chimney Rock a national monument want President Barack Obama to hasten the process by bypassing Congress and making the designation by executive order.

“This designation will assist in current trade and cultural history being fostered along the route in towns like ours, Pagosa Springs, as well as others in the area,” Nerissa Whittington, owner of The Springs Resort, said a statement.

Mary Jo Coulehan, director of the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement: “The increased national attention from a national monument designation may bring more out-of-state and international visitors.”

In May, a letter to that effect was sent to Obama by 130 businesses from Pagosa Spring to Durango.

There has been no organized opposition to monument status. A nearby property owner expressed concerns about traffic at a public meeting in May.

Chimney Rock encompasses 4,700 acres in the San Juan National Forest about 15 miles west of Pagosa Springs. It is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

It was home to the ancestors of modern Puebloan peoples and flourished for 300 years starting about A.D. 800. It holds cultural, spiritual and historical significance.

The distinguishing twin spires of Chimney Rock frame the lunar standstill – a peak in the moon’s travels that occurs once every 18.6 years.

Colorado’s two U.S. senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, were pleased with the report.

“Today’s study makes clear that a monument designation would be a boost for Colorado’s tourism at a critical time,” Bennet said in a statement.

Udall in a statement said: “I hope the results of this study pave the way for national monument designation so tourists will have yet another reason to visit the beautiful state of Colorado.”

In April, the senators and Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, urged Obama to use his authority to make Chimney Rock a national monument.

daler@durangoherald.com

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