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Mesa Verde’s historic Far View center needs a tenant

National Park Service wants center to pay for itself

Mesa Verde National Park is struggling with what to do with the Far View Visitors Center.

The circular building with panoramic views was abandoned in 2013 in favor of a new visitors and research center at the entrance to the park.

But despite a plethora of ideas for a new use at Far View – including a performance hall, conference space, restaurant, or a Native American cultural center – nothing has gained traction, said park superintendent Cliff Spencer.

“We’ve been looking for four years and are still trying to find a use for it,” he said. “Right now, we’re looking at leasing it. Whatever the alternative, it will have to pay for itself.”

Budget restraints are limiting what the park can afford to do with old facility, which costs $10,000 per year to maintain. The new visitors center is open year-round, but it still has the same funding as the old visitors center, which closed from mid-October to early April.

“The new one is costing us more, and we can’t afford to operate two visitor centers,” Spencer said. “We’re committed to finding a use for it.”

Rumors that Far View will be torn down are premature, he said, but that option could be considered if a solution cannot be found.

An initiative called Reduce the Federal Footprint is urging national parks to eliminate unnecessary buildings to save energy and reduce maintenance budgets long-term. That funding would not be available until fiscal year 2019.

The building may be nominated to Colorado’s list of endangered places next year, and is eligible for the National Register of Historic places. Any adverse impact to the building would be reviewed by an advisory council on historic preservation and involve public input.

Former park archaeologist Linda Towle is the reviewer for the endangered nomination.

“It’s a significant building, and there is a base of support to keep it,” she said. “We think there is some possible uses for the building that have not been explored.”

“The building is not in imminent danger. There is still time to find a new use,” she said.

Another suggestion is making it into a natural history museum with park recreation maps, and have it be the trailhead for a new trail to the nearby Far View ruin sites.

Far View Visitor Center was built in 1966, as part of the Mission 66 movement to modernize national parks. It was designed by Denver architects Joseph and Louise Marlowe in a style known as mid-century modern. The 10,500-square-foot building was designed to be a round theater, then it was remodeled into the parks main visitor’s center. Its round shape was inspired by nearby kivas.

Tourists used to access its circular entrance ramp via a pedestrian tunnel under the roadway.


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