The unique town of Rico, Colorado sits in a high alpine environment, and while isolated from urban society, it has many amenities that attract a wide range of visitors and residents, from mountain enthusiasts, to the Telluride commuter, to the person seeking to escape from it all. Aside from all its natural beauty, Rico faces many problems as a rural town, including a stagnant economy and more than double the unemployment rate as the state of Colorado.
The towns of Nucla and Naturita, Colorado, also known as the West End, face similar difficulties and have similar natural, local assets. Their rugged high-mesa desert landscape and location at the midpoint between Telluride and Moab, make the West End an untapped adventure and outdoor recreation tourism wonderland – horseback riding, jeeping, mountain biking, and hiking opportunities are unique and undiscovered.
Community leaders see the potential for exciting outdoor experiences in these areas, as well as recognize outdoor recreation and tourism, are part of a drive to economic opportunity. The Telluride Foundation has included regional trails development and marketing as part of its “Strong Neighbors Initiative” (formerly the Paradox Community Development Initiative) with the goal of increasing year-round regional and national outdoor recreation tourism for the West End and Rico.
Through the Foundation’s “Community Challenge Grant” program, the Foundation staff began working with local trails organizations in Rico and the West End. These grants provided the seed funding necessary to start websites, design maps, and organize groups of volunteers. The West End Trails Alliance (westendtrails.org) and Rico Trails Alliance (ricotrailsalliance.org) are grassroots organizations built through efforts of volunteers who love to experience the outdoors, starting from their own backyards. Because of the environmental assets that exist in the region, both groups have the capacity to add to their local economy.
Recognizing the importance of regional collaboration to increase the impact of marketing efforts, attract new resources and funding, and share information and knowledge, the Telluride Foundation is bringing regional community leaders, marketing professionals, and trails groups together to help each town get on the map as a mountain biking, hiking, riding and outdoor recreation destination.
The Foundation hosted the first Regional Trails Meeting in February 2018, which was attended by over 50 community members from Rico and Telluride to Norwood, the West End and Gateway. This meeting helped to identify opportunities for regional collaboration between nonmotorized, equestrian, and motorized trails groups. Attendees included local trails groups, outdoor enthusiasts, town and county officials, economic development partners, small business owners, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
The Telluride Foundation will hold its second Regional Trails Meeting on June 26 from 1:00 to 3:30pm at the Placerville School House. This meeting will focus on marketing and promoting existing trails in our region. We will host a panel of speakers from Fruita, Crested Butte, Gunnison, and a former marketing professional from the International Mountain Biking Association to share their success stories and experience promoting their regions as outdoor recreation and tourism destinations. The Norwood Forest Service District will also speak about signage.
Please visit www.WestEndTrails.org/ and www.RicoTrailsAlliance.org/ to learn more about the great (and lesser travelled) outdoor experiences that are within an hour or two of Telluride!