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Know the West

Ranchers offer hospitality

  In Park County, Colo., ranchers who want to maintain their traditional land uses are saying "no, thank you" to housing developers. Instead, they're welcoming tourists.

Seven years ago, several ranchers and county officials formed the South Park Heritage Area Board. The board, along with six partner organizations, aims to protect ranchers with conservation easements, and preserve local cultural and natural resources. Its highest priority for protection is the Wahl-Coleman Ranch, a 2,250-acre ranch with enviable water rights and wetlands rich with wildlife. The coalition hopes its work will eventually generate new local economies: education, heritage tourism and recreation.

Board chairman and rancher Bill Gordon believes there is a "will and desire in the county to preserve our past." He points to the 1 percent sales tax - the first ever passed in the county - now dedicated to protecting the county's remaining water resources.

Gary Nichols, Park County director of Tourism and Community Development, expects the local push for preservation to draw visitors from Colorado's Front Range.

"Increasingly, people are looking for authentic, noncommercial vacation destinations within 100 miles of home," he says. "That's what we offer."

For more information, write to Nichols at the Park County Tourism and Community Development Office, P.O. Box 1373, Fairplay, CO 80440; call 719/836-4270; or e-mail [email protected]

Copyright © 2002 HCN and Dawn Caillouet