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3/28/2013 Sangres Historic Park

Earlier this month, Colorado Senator Mark Udall introduced legislation to establish the Sangre de Cristo National Historic Park. While the proposed designation would specifically protect several historic and cultural sites in the San Luis Valley, the measure could certainly benefit the economy of the Wet Mountain Valley.

The proposed Historic Park doesn’t actually affect our beloved Sangre de Cristo Mountains. But it would identify and potentially protect a number of significant properties, including the Fort Garland museum, Pike’s Stockade in Conejos County, the Dario Gallegos House in San Luis, the D&RG Depot in Antonito, and the Sociedad Proteccion Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos (the Mutual Protection Society of Workers United) building, also in Antonito, among others.

With heritage tourism a growing and important part of Southern Colorado’s tourist trade, the National Historic Park would bring added attention to the entire region surrounding the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Custer County certainly benefited from the establishment of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area in 1993. The 220,000 acre wilderness area sits primarily in Custer and Saguache counties, and includes smaller portions of Fremont, Huerfano and Alamosa counties. Though precise statistics aren’t available, there’s little doubt that the wilderness status has attracted vast numbers of visitors since its designation 20 years ago.

Efforts are now underway to identify and protect portions of the route taken by the Zebulon Pike Expedition in 1806-07, a portion of which follows Grape Creek from the Arkansas River through present-day Custer County and over Medano Pass into the San Luis Valley. That historically significant route, coupled with Senator Udall’s proposed Historic Park, will only expand and promote our region’s rich Western heritage.