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Cortez council signs lease agreement with Crow Canyon center

Archaeological group to move into Welcome Center retail area
The Colorado Welcome Center in Cortez.

The Cortez City Council has approved a lease agreement with Crow Canyon Archaeological Center that will allow the organization to move into retail space in the Colorado Welcome Center.

Crow Canyon will take over space formerly occupied by the Mesa Verde Museum Association, which left the Welcome Center in October because of low sales. According to a memo from City Manager Shane Hale, the archaeology nonprofit was the only respondent to a request for proposal the city sent for new Welcome Center renters. Crow Canyon has expressed interest in selling tickets to Mesa Verde National Park, which were formerly provided by the Museum Association, but that likely won’t happen until later this year.

The Museum Association’s bookstore had operated out of the Welcome Center for about 10 years, and had sold Mesa Verde tickets there for about four years before its staff decided not to reopen next season. Executive Director Teri Paul said the association had been losing money at the Welcome Center for several years. When it left, the Welcome Center lost its ability to sell Mesa Verde tickets.

Hale said he and Crow Canyon staff hope to restore that service soon, but it will take more negotiations with the city. Anyone selling tickets to a national park needs to get a federal background check, he said.

“Crow Canyon did mention that this could be a little bit of a burden for them,” he said. “We agreed that the city would maybe need to participate financially.”

He said city and Crow Canyon staff will discuss the issue further in June. The terms of the lease, which lasts two years, will stay the same as they were for the Museum Association.

Debbie Fish, Crow Canyon’s vice president of operations, submitted a letter of interest to the city saying her organization plans to use the retail space to advertise its existing educational programs, but she said the staff also plans to use the Welcome Center as a hub for new programs in Cortez.

“Walk-in field trips for nearby schools, day cares or youth groups are some examples of offerings which could utilize spaces within the Welcome Center, the nearby park, or other locations,” she wrote in the letter.

She also said that, Crow Canyon has its own commercially licensed kitchen, and it could sell fresh food at the Welcome Center.

Mayor Karen Sheek said she was excited about the new lease.

“I’m just really pleased to see some of the ideas that you guys have,” she told Crow Canyon staff who attended the meeting.

The council approved the lease agreement unanimously, with councilman Bob Archibeque absent.

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