Saddlehorn Amphitheater and Connector Trail Renovation Project
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Why is Colorado National Monument an important site?
This spectacular 20,000 acres of steep-walled red rock canyons provide a unique opportunity for local residents and visitors to immerse themselves in the outdoors and rich history of our region. Situated on the eastern edge of the Colorado Plateau, the Monument truly is the crown jewel of Mesa County. The park attracts approximately 720,000 visitors every year, including:
- 375,000 out-of-area visitors (2017); these visitors spent $22.9 million with local businesses while traveling in the region.
- Nearly 4,000 Mesa County School District 51 students and an additional 600 other students/youth groups from throughout the region
- Those enjoying
- Interpretive Ranger Talks (2,300 adults and children annually)
- Walks & Talks (800 participants annually)
- Grand Junction Ministerial Alliance Sunrise Service (250 people each Easter Sunday)
- Rimrock Marathon (approximately 500 runners)
- S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Naturalization Ceremony (49 new citizens recently).
What is Colorado National Monument Association?
Colorado National Monument Association is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that exists solely to assist and support the Colorado National Monument.
Formed in 1964, the organization’s Mission Statement: Colorado National Monument Association partners with the National Park Service to inspire our community and visitors to learn about, play in, and protect Colorado’s geologic gem.
The organization is comprised of:
- Ten-person board of directors
- Two full-time and five part-time seasonal staff
- 400 members
What does the Association Do?
In FY2018, Association programming engaged:
- 163,121 people at the Visitor Center
- 3,550 Junior Rangers
- 3,981 student visitors via field trips or in-school programming.
The Association’s primary activities include to:
- Respond to National Park Service needs in offering a quality and sustainable visitor experience at Colorado National Monument.
- Operate the Monument Visitor Center and generate revenues through Bookstore sales.
- Provide Junior Ranger Explorer Summer Day Camp and all Junior Ranger supplies, i.e. books and badges; provide transportation for local school field trips.
- Host “Walks & Talks” programs.
- Provide for roadside and trailhead signs; develop and print visitor guides, brochures and site bulletins.
- Produce the Colorado National Monument calendar, featuring the work of local photographers; conduct photography contests and exhibits.
- Provide archival supplies and services for preservation of historical photographs.
- Fund internships for college students.
In 2017, Association-generated cash and in-kind support totaled $92,000 to the Park Service/Monument.
The Association’s current goals include:
- Continue working with National Park Service in prioritizing and effectively responding to otherwise unmet needs at Colorado National Monument.
- Continue profitable operation of the Colorado National Monument Visitor Center store (visitorship and sales currently are increasing annually)
- Identify and engage additional innovative revenue-generating endeavors.
- Raise funds for and complete Saddlehorn Amphitheater and Connector Trail restoration and update project.
- Longer term, continue to undertake significant projects that increase the Association’s impact.
- Launch and complete the longer-term and larger East End Plaza project.
What is the Saddlehorn Amphitheater and Connector Trail project?
Restoration of the Saddlehorn Amphitheater and Connector Trail is an effort being led by Colorado National Monument Association – in partnership with National Park Service employees and contractors – with the goal to return the beautiful Saddlehorn Amphitheater venue to its optimal use as a comfortable, safe and accessible place for the community to come together.
Located within the Colorado National Monument (near the Visitors Center and Campground), the 300-seat Saddlehorn Amphitheater was built in 1966 as part of the National Park Service “Mission 66” to improve America’s national parks. The Amphitheater has been an important part of the community for decades but, due to lack of funding, and a large maintenance backlog, the site has not seen attention or been utilized for some time. Saddlehorn Amphitheater suffers from years of deferred care, and updates have not occurred:
- The original roof and benches remain
- Asphalt paths to the site are not ADA-compliant and are unsafe for all due to significant cracking
- The facility also does not accommodate the technology needs of today’s speakers/presenters.
The currently-planned renovation project endeavors to:
- Improve the Connector Trail – which provides access to the Saddlehorn Amphitheater – replacing dangerous asphalt with crushed granite
- Update the Amphitheater’s interior (electrical, shelving, seating)
- Update the Amphitheater’s exterior (roof, facia/soffit, paint/stain and siding)
- Install modern equipment (podium, audio-visual equipment).
- Provide for a fund to cover ongoing maintenance needs of the Amphitheater and Trail.
All improvement work will retain the integrity of the original amphitheater while providing both functional and aesthetic enhancements.
What is the timing of the project?
Site studies and fundraising efforts have begun, with construction slated to begin in early Spring 2019 and all site work and fundraising to be completed by late Summer 2019.
All improvements/installations have expected lifespans of 10-40 years. Ongoing maintenance will be managed by National Park Service personnel, aided by the Monument Association, which will provide funding and oversight of local Boy Scouts of America troops assisting in annual upkeep efforts (e.g. maintenance of theater seating).
What is the cost of the project?
Total cost for the project is $725,000.
A fundraising campaign, led by Association board members, has been launched in 2018 to secure the necessary funds via donations from Association members and other individuals/businesses in the community, grants, sales of a commemorative/custom wine product, and in-kind donation of construction-related goods and services.
Why is this an important project?
Colorado National Monument preserves one of the grand landscapes of the American West. Towering monoliths exist within a vast plateau and canyon panorama. Visitors are likely to sight unique wildlife species, most notably bighorn sheep. Unique recreational opportunities include biking 3,684’ of elevation gain on Rim Rock Drive, observing plein air painting by renowned Western artists, and hiking amidst the breathtaking wonder of the Colorado Plateau. People from across the world visit this region for its unmatched geologic, ecologic and historic significance and beauty, providing an important foundation for the recreational economy of Western Colorado.
The Saddlehorn Amphitheater and Connector Trail improvement project will restore and provide a valued and historical asset that is more accessible, safer, better used by and more appealing to Colorado National Monument visitors.