Bennet, Hickenlooper Introduce Bill to Reauthorize Colorado’s Three National Heritage Areas: Cache La Poudre, Sangre de Cristo, and South Park

Legislation Would Ensure Colorado’s Three National Heritage Areas Can Continue to Use National Park Service Funds For Historic Preservation and Heritage Tourism Projects

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper introduced the Colorado National Heritage Areas Reauthorization Act to reauthorize Colorado’s three National Heritage Areas (NHA), ensuring they continue to receive National Park Service (NPS) funding through 2036. The National Heritage Area designations for Cache La Poudre, Sangre de Cristo, and South Park are set to expire in 2024.  

“Visitors come to Colorado’s National Heritage Areas to learn about the rich and diverse history of our state,” said Bennet. “Our legislation will preserve the history and culture of the Coloradans who came before us and ensure future generations can visit these areas and learn from the past.”

“Colorado’s National Heritage Areas are unparalleled,” said Hickenlooper, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources which will consider the bill. “Reauthorizing these National Heritage Areas will continue to protect and preserve their rich history, scenic landscapes, and cultural significance.”

Colorado’s three National Heritage Areas were first authorized in 2009 following years of grassroots organizing from stakeholders in their respective regions. NHAs leverage federal NPS funds for historic and cultural preservation projects with the support of counties, tourism, and historic preservation organizations. Colorado’s three National Heritage Areas have all completed notable projects since they were authorized in 2009. At the South Park NHA, NPS funds have helped to restore the endangered Paris Mill near Alma. Within the Sangre de Cristo NHA, funds have helped to share the story of the first desegregation case in the nation, Mestas v. Shone. At the Cache La Poudre NHA, they leveraged NPS funds to develop a water education curriculum at the Poudre River that can be accessed across the West. 

The bill text is available HERE.

"National Heritage Areas offer the beautiful opportunity for Colorado communities to preserve the heritage, culture and landscapes of the spaces we live in and love. Colorado's National Heritage Areas celebrate our authentic Colorado character and nurture grassroots stewardship of the places that define who we are,” said Dawn DiPrince, Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer, History Colorado.

“Colorado’s national heritage areas are a gift to our living history, culture, and the future of our local communities. When these nationally-significant landscapes are preserved and enhanced with Congressional investment, we all benefit. In order to continue their work, our heritage areas depend on a modest amount of federal funding, matched locally dollar-for-dollar with non-federal sources in what is one of the National Park Service’s most cost-effective programs. The stories that our national heritage areas protect help us understand a fuller narrative of America: from the nation’s earliest victory in the war against Hispano educational segregation, to the Poudre River’s instrumental role in establishing Western water law, to the daily lives of miners and ranchers along the Western Frontier, among many more. Absent Congressional investment, our heritage areas could suffer reduction of staff and services to local communities and even permanent suspension of their operations. NPCA applauds Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for their leadership on the critical need to reauthorize funding for the Sangre de Cristo, Cache la Poudre, and South Park National Heritage Areas, because we need to invest in cost-effective partnerships that create jobs, inspire local pride, and share America’s stories,” said Tracy Coppola, Colorado Senior Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association.

“Colorado Preservation, Inc supports Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper’s bill to reauthorize funding for Colorado’s three National Heritage Areas.  Colorado is fortunate enough to hold three of the 55 designated National Heritage Areas across the country.  Collectively, Colorado’s three Heritage Areas exhibit the national significance of Colorado’s earliest settlement in the San Luis Valley, water law and management through the Cache la Poudre River, and the rich mining heritage of Park County’s South Park. Colorado’s Natural Heritage Areas instill a sense of place and reflect the natural beauty as well as cultural heritage of our state, which support heritage tourism and generates economic value for their local communities. CPI strongly supports efforts to reauthorize funding for these areas to ensure these rare cultural and heritage landscapes stand protected for future generations,” said Jennifer Orrigo Charles, Executive Director, Colorado Preservation Inc.

“The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area has been an incredible resource in helping preserve and restore historic sites within the San Luis Valley. Without the resources provided from the National Parks Service, we would not have had the means available to make these projects happen.  It has definitely been a blessing to this area.  The economic impact to our counties has been tremendous,” said Conejos County Commissioner Mitchell Jarvies, NHA Board Chair.

“The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area helps educate and provide an opportunity to learn and explore our area’s historic, cultural and natural resources. Having a designated area brings awareness and emphasis to the importance of our surroundings.   Learning from our history helps us move ahead stronger.  The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage area is a treasure for our county,” said Alamosa County Commissioner Lori Laske.

“The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area occupies a unique place in the San Luis Valley as the connective tissue that binds citizen efforts to preserve the rich culture of the region. Quite literally "the place where Colorado began," the valley presents an interesting vantage for appreciating the emergence of the modern Southwest at the intersection of diverse histories. The National Heritage Area lies at the crux of this vantage and supports efforts to protect and promote the oldest communities in the state of Colorado whose Latino and Native American roots present fascinating points of entry for understanding the wider American story. Among its many accomplishments, it has documented the invaluable stories of community elders, contributed to the historic preservation of important architectural assets, and provided critical resources linked to heritage tourism. Congressional reauthorization of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area will ensure that work of this essential entity will endure and continue to enrich both the local community and the nation,” said Dr. Nick Saenz, Former Board President, Adams State University Professor of History.

“As a 4th generation native of San Luis, in the heart of the Sangre De Cristo National Heritage Area, I can say that I am honored to be a part of such an incredible organization.  I have learned so much about my own Hispano and Indigenous heritage from the educational vignettes that the SDCNHA has created, as well as the histories of the Dutch, Amish, German, Japanese and Anglo settlers of this great region.  As the Director of our Small Business Development Center, I am amazed at the amount of interest in our area generated by these histories, the grant projects that have been funded by the NHA, as well as the economic development and tourism that has resulted from the great work that they continue to do. I applaud their efforts, and hope that the Sangre De Cristo National Heritage Area continues to receive the funding they need to proceed with the amazing work they do!  Que viva la SDCNHA!!!” said Jason Medina, Director of the Small Business Development Center, Costilla County NHA Board Member.

“The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area truly exemplifies what I value in our community, that rich sense of pride and of being in and from such a special place on this earth.  To be the facilitator, educator, protector and focal point of such a variety of important valuable human resources is a mission the Heritage Area has served well and will continue to serve.  As a native Coloradan from the Valley, farmer and rancher, husband, father and grandfather, water manager and citizen legislator it's so important to me that we continue in perpetuity this preservation effort as the internal and external pressures continue to grow that risk fundamentally changing our way of life in the San Luis Valley,” said Cleave Simpson, Colorado State Senator and General Manager, Rio Grande Water Conservation District.

“The South Park National Heritage Area (SPNHA) has had a beneficial impact on our community, economy and quality of life.  Park County local ranchers, property owners, and preservationists have worked together to preserve our iconic landscape, and with it our local history. The SPNHA has a successful track record in preserving and protecting rural Colorado's historic and natural wonders.  Our partnerships with local residents, local organizations and agencies within the state government have leveraged the dollars received to achieve the maximum benefit possible.  We hope to be able to continue this work and urge you to continue support of the SPNHA,” said the Park County Board of County Commissioners.

"The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area is not only a valuable resource to the Northern Colorado community, in many ways it defines us. Residents and visitors alike find value in this heritage area through cultural and environmental learning and our communities benefit economically from all that the river corridor provides. And last but certainly not least, it is an amazingly beautiful area,” said Julie Pignataro, City of Fort Collins, Councilmember, District 2.

"The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area is unique because of its contributions to the development of Western water law in the United States. In collaboration with the National Parks Service, the Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area shares the stories that celebrate our nation’s diverse heritage through educational programs and activities that combine the area’s rich history, beautiful scenery, and recreation opportunities, from hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, fishing, and birdwatching, to museums and historical attractions,” said Bob Overbeck, Larimer County Assessor, Vice Chair, Poudre Heritage Alliance.

“National Heritage Areas are vital to preserving our open spaces and heritage. That’s a soft fact but specific to Windsor, the importance of this regional gem is evidenced by the number of visitors seen at two trailheads along the corridor. In 2021, the Poudre River Trail within the Cache la Poudre Heritage Area recorded 128,000 visitors at the Eastman Park trailhead and we logged another 83,000 at the Kodak trailhead. The Cache la Poudre has a profound impact on our residents and visitors through land preservation, education and recreation. These help preserve our quality of life and connection to the outdoors.  As Mayor of the Town of Windsor, and as CALA is scheduled to sunset in 2024, I urge you to support legislative reauthorization that will protect our Cache la Poudre National Heritage Area. Please support the preservation and interpretation of our region’s most valuable historic and recreational resource,” said Paul Rennemeyer, Mayor, Town of Windsor.

“I am proud to lead a community that plans for its future by appreciating its heritage. The Cache la Poudre River is a part of our community’s lifeblood and reason for settling in this beautiful part of Colorado. The designation of the Cache la Poudre River Natural Heritage Area was championed by Greeley leaders initially and remains an incredibly important part of our landscape, values, and future today. Reauthorization of the Cache la Poudre River Natural Heritage Area has my full support and endorsement,” said John Gates, Mayor, City of Greeley.

“As Greeley’s new City Manager I am in a unique position to offer a fresh perspective to this community I have joined. Among the treasures Greeley holds is the Cache la Poudre River and corridor. I am grateful to be a part of a community that values its heritage and understands deeply the value of its natural resources and, in the west, its water. The Cache la Poudre River National Heritage area designation has provided critical support in the recognition of this incredible resource,” said Raymond C. Lee III, City Manager, City of Greeley.

“The Cache la Poudre River has been a vital resource in the region for 150 years, and the Poudre Heritage Alliance has helped Northern Colorado residents recognize its past and present while engaging with local stakeholders to plan for the future,” said Jeff Stahla, Public Information Officer, Northern Water.

“The Cache la Poudre River is the heart of our community and our way of life in Northern Colorado. In addition to serving as a convening force and source of life for the region since time immemorial, the River has driven our economy for generations – including a thriving craft beer and outdoor recreation economy. I bicycle along the river’s banks each day on my way to work, enjoying the vibrancy it brings to downtown Fort Collins including the Whitewater Park where our coworkers and customers recreate just steps from our brewery doors. We honor and celebrate the legacy of the Cache la Poudre National Heritage Area, and we thank Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper for championing its reauthorization,” said Katie Wallace, Director of Social & Environmental Impact, New Belgium Brewing.

“The Alliance of National Heritage Areas recognizes and promotes our nation’s unique historic, cultural, and natural resources,” said Sara Capen, Chairperson, Alliance of National Heritage Area. “South Park National Heritage Area has been witness to both people and events that have dramatically altered the course of our nation’s history. Thanks to the efforts of Senator Hickenlooper and Senator Bennett, this legislation will ensure that South Park’s rich and vibrant heritage will continue to be celebrated and preserved by current and future generations.”

“You bet it is good to renew the Cache La Poudre National Heritage area. This spectacular river is vital to not just flora and fauna but the cleansing after disasters that we have seen from the Cameron Peak fire and Black Hollow floods. Given the right tools, the rivers can rebuild and renew which is why protecting that ability is so important. The moose and cutthroat win but so do all the people who drink water or beer. We all want clean water. Working on Colorado's only Wild & Scenic river enables us to show people daily what a healthy, working river is all about. The economic value for rafters, farmers, brewers and community is priceless,” said Brad Modesitt, Owner, Mountain Whitewater and Paddler’s Pub.