It’s been a rough couple of years for small businesses. But a bright light is shining down on our little corner of Colorado: We could be a national and international hotspot for tourism in the near future.
Chimney Rock Archaeological Area, about 15 miles west of Pagosa Springs in Archuleta County, could be protected as a national monument. As a small business owner in Pagosa Springs, I am thrilled that the possibility of this designation could be happening sooner rather than later. Chimney Rock’s ancient archaeological ruins and beautiful landscape deserve this protection and recognition as an important cultural site.
Chimney Rock was home to the ancestors of modern Puebloan people and flourished for 300 years starting around 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.
A new economic report released last month indicates that a national monument designation for the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area could double the economic impact Chimney Rock has on the region, bringing an additional $1.2 million to the area within five years.
This is right in line with a significant amount of data that suggests that, in Colorado, protecting public lands and the great outdoors is one of the best things we can do for our economy.
Accordingly, more than 130 businesses between Pagosa Springs and Durango have joined me in writing a letter encouraging the president and our congressional delegation to secure this national monument status for Chimney Rock.
Mary Jo Coulehan, director of Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce, told the media: “The increased national attention from a national monument designation may bring more out-of-state and international visitors.”
We owe a big thanks to Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall and Rep. Scott Tipton for taking leadership on this issue.
In May, Bennet, Tipton, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Harris Sherman held a public meeting in Pagosa with the U.S. Forest Service to discuss the potential designation and to get community comment.
At this meeting there was overwhelming community support for a Chimney Rock National Monument. There was also some discussion about different strategies we might pursue to protect Chimney Rock, including a presidential declaration.
I would like to thank the Obama administration for participating in this discussion and strongly encourage a national monument designation as soon as possible. As perhaps the most important cultural and historic site that the U.S. Forest Service manages, Chimney Rock deserves this recognition.
I look forward to welcoming heritage tourists to Pagosa.
Monica Greene is the owner of Handcrafted Interiors in Pagosa Springs. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.