Following several federal budget cycles with funding cuts, hopes are that the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway can now rebuild itself into a contributing link in local economic development efforts.
Just a few years ago, the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway consisted of a group of individuals dedicated to the area's greatest tourist and recreation asset -- Grand Mesa. The board succeeded in getting funds to make improvements to facilities and provide interpretative enhancements to the byway. But since that time, federal budget cuts have occurred, some of the byway board's key players have moved on, and others have passed away.
However, last week at the Stolte Shed, a step toward rebuilding the byway took place. Kelli Hepler, coordinator of programs for the Delta County Tourism Board, held a mini seminar for businesses and volunteers. It was a session to inform, educate and inspire local people about the many outstanding tourism and recreation activities available to visitors and to local residents along the byway. The more people know about the byway, the more they can share with visitors, Hepler emphasized.
Also present for the session was longtime byway board member and community booster Bill Miller. There are currently openings for people wanting to serve with the byway board, Miller said.
Hepler told the group, "Anyone and everyone can be a byway interpreter." Her message was that everyone in the community has a stake in knowing about the byway. Sharing the story of what they know with others, including friends, family and visitors to the area, is a way to help the community's economic development efforts. Hepler's seminar focused on educating the attendees on the many attractions and services available to byway visitors.
In fact, there are so many facilities, stops and attractions on the byway, most local people don't realize the variety until they stop and try to number them, beginning with the Surface Creek Historical Society's Visitor Center at Pioneer Town. The town's restaurants, along with the many facilities and activities available on Grand Mesa, account for a tourism and recreation experience that locals should be proud to talk about.
Hepler used the Byway Road Trip board game, a training aid she developed. Playing the game helps people learn about all that the byway offers and how to share that information with visitors they might encounter.
Hepler provided other lighthearted and fun activities for participants in her seminar, all for the purpose of learning how to share information about the many scenic views, recreational opportunities, traveler services, restrooms and restaurants, literally dozens of them in all, that are available to travelers along the byway.
Hepler was planning later that day to visit with individual businesses in Cedaredge and talk with them about promotional efforts. She is also willing to set up more meetings and trainings, she said. Materials are available for businesses that want to keep them on hand for providing the information to tourists. Some of the materials are distributed free and may then be sold to tourists with a portion of the proceeds going back to the local byway for promotions.
Hepler and others in tourism have long known that the Grand Mesa Visitor Center gets lots of visitors from the Grand Valley side of the Mesa. But few of those visitors continue on down the south side of Grand Mesa through Cedaredge, Surface Creek Valley and Delta on their way back home. Most of them simply turn around and go back home from the mesa top when their visit is done. Forest Service staff at the Visitor Center aren't allowed to make travel recommendations to tourists like suggesting restaurants in Cedaredge or Orchard City. However, the Tourism Cabinet keeps a supply of printed materials about Delta County stocked for distribution at the Visitor Center, including the Delta County Independent's annual visitors' guide.