From The Mountain Mail (Elise LeSage):
Two Colorado nonprofit organizations are developing projects that will bolster Buena Vista’s local economy thanks to grants from the Colorado Tourism Office.
The Arkansas River Outfitters Association and the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative were awarded donations of $25,000 and $85,000 respectively late last year, which will be used to attract more visitors to both the Arkansas and Colorado peaks.
The Arkansas River is one of Buena Vista’s most lucrative recreational attractions.
The tourism the river produces creates an influx of revenue for local businesses, stimulating the economy of the town.
In 2014 alone, the area saw an economic impact of $60,734,207 from the Arkansas River (2014 Commercial Rafting Use Report). With the acquisition of the grant, AROA hopes to further the number of clientele visiting the river, thereby increasing the income of the town.
This goal will be executed through the production of promotional media. Mike Kissack, executive director of AROA, revealed plans to increase advertising in broader regions.
“Our (public relations) department is working to endorse the Arkansas as a tourism destination across states,” Kissack said. “Part of the budget is going to be spent on producing a new video and a social media campaign.”
Although Buena Vista currently enjoys a fair amount of tourists from areas in Kansas and Texas, Kissack, who runs American Adventure Expeditions, said a main goal of the project is to attract customers from neighboring states like Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.
AROA will use the grant awarded by the Colorado Tourism Office to publicly promote the Arkansas River as the destination for rafting, fly fishing, kayaking and other activities its members offer.
The matching funds grant was received in part as a collaborative effort of the Chaffee County Visitors Bureau and Colorado Parks and Wildlife and is the second issue of $25,000 the Colorado Tourism Office has provided AROA.
The revenue produced by American Adventure Expeditions and other AROA members alone “directly affects all the businesses in the area in a very positive manner,” Kissack said. A recreationist enjoying the Arkansas also contributes income to local hotels, restaurants and gear supply stores.
Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, meanwhile, is using its grants to install sustainable foot trails on Mount Columbia, Colorado’s 35th tallest peak.
It is one of a dozen fourteeners in Chaffee County. Whether they be for recreation or inspiration, the fourteeners are integral to the lives of Chaffee County residents.
Mount Columbia is already a popular location for climbers. The current most popular unsanctioned trail, however, is a steep 9 miles and cuts through existing wildlife habitats. CFI’s new path is intended to preserve fragile alpine trails and minimize erosion.
CFI Executive Director Lloyd Ackner said the organization will work with the U.S. Forest Service to “design paths that are beneficial to plant life and animal ecosystems while giving people better and more enjoyable trails to climb on.”
The CTO grant was matched by outdoor equipment giant REI through a project called Every Trail Connects.
“REI has been a long-term corporate partner with us,” Ackner said. “We usually receive $10-15,000, but their contribution this year was exceptionally big.”
He said CFI hopes this project will attract hikers and campers from all over to the otherwise undeveloped mountain.
Though it is difficult to calculate the precise economic impact, CFI is working to install “trail counters” on Colorado fourteeners, which track the foot traffic along each mountain. Each individual climbing the trail – assuming they are arriving within a 25-mile radius of the location – will signify an estimated dollar value that CFI can use to calculate resident profit.
CFI began accepting volunteers for the Mount Columbia project Tuesday.