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Ridgway secures $15,000 state tourism grant for Visitor Center redesign

The Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Town of Ridgway, secured a $15,000 Colorado Tourism Office grant to redesign the Ridgway Visitor Center and Heritage Park. This grant, announced in January, was the second awarded to the Ridgway Chamber in the last six months, bringing local tourism grant funding to a total of $30,000.

The Visitor Center, located in the 1.25-acre park at the southeast corner of Highways 62 and 550, is owned by the town and managed by the chamber. Together with the Visitor Center, the indoor and outdoor displays of the Ridgway Railroad Museum have shared the property and building for more than a decade. The train cars, photos and artifacts in the museum were the main draw for visitors.

In early 2018, the museum’s outdoor displays moved to a new location on Railroad Street, next to the historic Railroad Depot building, and the plan is for the indoor displays to move there by 2020. Without the train cars, the Visitor Center building is now alone in a 73-year-old building on am empty lot.

“The numbers of visitors at the center dropped from 6,000 in 2017 to 4,500 in 2018, with future projections of a continued decrease in visitor numbers,” said Chamber Board President Colin Lacy. “The town government and chamber started discussions last year about a potential redesign of the center and property that would effectively motivate visitors to explore Ridgway tourism assets.”

The property next to the Ouray County Fairgrounds is considered the gateway to the region, as it is at the base of the San Juan Mountains, and is the first point of contact for visitors entering Ridgway from the directions of Montrose or Ouray, Lacy added.

The CTO grant will fund the development of a strategic plan for redesigning the Visitor Center and park to meet off-peak season needs, drive visitors to explore tourism assets, adapt to the digital world of travel and better represent Ridgway’s community character. The planning process will include stakeholder engagement to gather community input. The chamber and the town will seek additional outside funding for implementation of the resulting plan.

Meanwhile, the chamber is collaborating with the Ouray Tourism Office on an off-peak season promotion plan, funded by a $10,000 CTO grant. The goal is to enhance both Ridgway’s and Ouray’s current marketing programs to increase tourism from October to April to support local businesses and economic growth.

The chamber and the town government are also partnering on a $25,000 regional CTO grant to promote Ridgway as a Creative District along with four other communities along the Colorado Creative Corridor. The corridor, developed in 2018, offers travelers multi-day itineraries and encourages them to explore Certified Creative Districts throughout rural Colorado.

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