DENVER (CBS4/AP) — Creating a trail along the Rio Grande from Colorado to New Mexico as well as a national historic park are among the ideas being considered to preserve the history and landscape in the San Luis Valley, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday.
Salazar discussed the ideas with officials from six southern Colorado counties during a meeting in Alamosa. U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper also participated.
“There are so many assets and there’s so much potential, but by combining these in the context of the secretary’s vision, we’re just ready to launch a whole new era of economic vitality,” Udall said.
Salazar said there’s also interest in coming up with a plan for landscape conservation on the valley floor — the northernmost area of the Spanish Colonial and Mexican frontier. However, he said the government wouldn’t take over any land under that proposal.
A 1979 study recommended that one spot in the area, Vermejo Park Ranch, be included in the national park system but it never was. It’s now owned by Ted Turner and is operated as a hunting, fishing and nature tourism resort. Billionaire Louis Bacon owns another of the large ranches in the valley and has vigorously fought efforts by power companies to site transmission lines across it.
“The history is not well told and I think it has a great opportunity to promote tourism, cultural tourism, and it’ll attract visitors from all over the world,” National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said.
The meeting came a day after Salazar designated the Trujillo Homesteads near the Great Sand Dunes as a National Historic Landmark.
The land was settled in 1865 by the Trujillo family, one of the area’s largest sheep raisers, and is now owned by The Nature Conservancy.
“We’re about getting things done and getting things moved down the ball field,” Salazar said. “It may take longer time for some of these initiatives to come together, but I think there’s a great sense that we can get things done.”
Salazar was born and raised in the valley and his ancestors were among those who moved into what is now Colorado after the end of the Mexican-American war.
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