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The Cortez Journal is Montezuma County's community newspaper - featuring Local News and Advertising you can use in the Four Corners region.
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It’s easier than you think.
Hop in your ride, unfold National Geographic’s new Four Corners Region map and explore the culture and sites that make this area special.
National Geographic officials have teamed up with tourism leaders in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona to produce a road map and website dedicated to exploring the Four Corners states’ cultural values.
The Four Corners project fits in with National Geographic’s effort to promote geotourism, a form of travel that encourages values such as culture, heritage and the well-being of an area’s residents, said Jim Dion, sustainable tourism program manager for National Geographic’s Maps Division.
“Travel and tourism is the largest industry in the world outside agriculture …,” Dion said from his Washington, D.C. office. “I don’t think there’s another travel and tourism place inspiring people to travel more than National Geographic. … So we want to promote a sense of place.”
The geotourism project should draw more visitors to the Four Corners region, said Lynn Dyer, tourism director for Mesa Verde Country in Cortez.
“I think overall it means more exposure for us and more reason for people to come here and stay in the area and really experience everything geotourism has to offer,” Dyer said. “More people are looking for experience, for heritage and cultural-type travel. Rather than just doing one thing in the area, they want to get to know the area.”
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PARTNERS
Local tourism officials Dyer and Susan Thomas learned about the possibility of partnering with National Geographic during a 2008 presentation in Denver, said Thomas, project manager and site editor for the new Four Corners geotourism website.
Representing the Four Corners area’s Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, Mesa Verde Country contacted National Geographic, and the seed for a local geotourism project was planted, Dion said.
“We didn’t pick them,” Dion said. “They picked us. They wanted to do a geotourism project with us based on this methodology (of geotourism promotion that National Geographic uses).”
Extensive culture in the Four Corners provided a natural fit for a National Geographic geotourism project, said Thomas, who also serves as coordinator for Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway.
“National Geographic loves our Four Corners geotourism project because there’s so much culture, art, food; the environment comes through. … We have a very kind of a … frontier feel in a very fresh and welcoming way,” Thomas said.
The geotourism partnership between National Geographic and tourism officials from the Four Corners states officially launched in September 2010 during a dedication for the Four Corners Monument, Thomas said.
Dion announced the Four Corners Region Geotourism Initiative at the dedication, according to a news release that National Geographic released Sept. 17, 2010. He asked for public participation in the road map and the website.
“We’re working with key people to tell their stories to enhance the benefits for both the local people and visitors to your region,” Dion said when he addressed attendees at the 2010 Four Corners Monument dedication, according to a Journal article published the following day. “It’s a way to tell the story of your place through the voices of the people. This will help foster sustainable tourism for the region.”
Regions that want to work with National Geographic to create a geotourism map and website need to form a permanent geotourism council, Dion said during a recent telephone interview from D.C.
“That’s really the key,” he said about the committee. “And the geotourism council has to agree to the principles.
National Geographic follows 13 principles that are in line with international tourism codes, Dion said.
Examples of the 13 geotourism principles include integrity of place, tourist satisfaction and community benefit, according to a list of the principles supplied by National Geographic.
The geotourism project describes the Four Corners largely through the voices of local residents, Thomas said.
“We invited local residents to do the nominating, so you will find sites on the website that you would never know about if you were planning your trip,” she said. “(The geotourism project allows people to) experience the place like a local would, so it’s not like a drive-by visit; it’s like a delve-in visit, I guess you would say.”
The Four Corners project formed the Geotourism Stewardship Council, Thomas said. The council has about 30 members. Examples include representatives from the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Navajo Nation, Mesa Verde National Park and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.
Although the Four Corners geotourism map is published and the website is launched, the Geotourism Stewardship Council will continue to meet to discuss issues such as tourism and stewardship, Thomas said.
FOUR CORNERS ON THE MAP
At first glance, the Four Corners Region: Trail of the Ancients Destination Map looks like any other road map.
The map cover features a photo of an ancient Native American structure at Hovenweep National Monument with the Sleeping Ute mountain range in the background. Above the photo, a small portion of the road map is visible to give readers a taste of what they’ll see when they open the map and look inside. The portion of map included on the cover shows U.S. Highways 160 and 491 cutting through the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, along with Yucca House National Monument, Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway and Mesa Verde National Park.
Inside, a web of state and U.S. highways links a massive network of cultural sites in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. The map highlights obvious stops such as Mesa Verde National Park, but it also points to stops visitors might not expect to see on a map, such as the Cortez Cultural Center.
Some examples include Chaco Culture National Historical Park, San Francisco de Asis Mission Church and Acoma Sky City in New Mexico; Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Museum of Northern Arizona and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona; Bluff Historic District, Arches National Park and Valley of the Gods Recreation Area in Utah; and the Anasazi Heritage Center, Creede Repertory Theatre and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado.
Focusing on the broader Four Corners region, the map doesn’t include all of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona or Utah. Roughly speaking, it starts with Moab, Utah, at around 12 o’clock, and its outer edge extends clockwise to points that include Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose; Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve; New Mexico’s Angel Fire Resort, Pueblo of Isleta and El Malpais National Monument; Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park, Montezuma Castle National Monument and Glen Canyon Dam; and Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park and Piute Reservoir.
Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway, for which the geotourism map is partially named, actually covers a much smaller geographic area limited to Southwest Colorado and Southeast Utah. The historic trail highlights the region’s rich Native American culture and archaeological sites.
On its flip side, National Geographic’s Four Corners map has four small maps of the Four Corners region instead of one large map. Each small map highlights sites under one of four themes: Outdoor Recreation; Art, Music and Culture; Water and Geology; and Archaeology.
Color photographs of images such as Monument Valley, Crow Canyon Archaeology Center, Zuni Indian jewelry at Zuni Pueblo, a kiva at Pueblo Bonito and mountain bikers near Silverton add a taste of the Four Corners to the map.
“The map is spectacularly beautiful,” Thomas said. “It’s a National Geographic map.”
National Geographic, which has a maps division in Evergreen, Colo., designed and printed the Four Corners geotourism map, Dyer said.
The Four Corners area received 10,000 maps to distribute throughout the four states, Dyer said. She estimated the maps might get distributed to about 100 to 150 locations where they’ll be available to visitors. More maps can be printed if necessary.
“They’re going as far as Zuni Pueblo …,” she said. “But we just have started the distribution process, so it’s hard to have a firm number.”
Tourism partners in the four states paid $250,000 for the total geotourism project, Dyer said. Of that, $195,000 went to National Geographic and the rest went to expenses such as public outreach, meetings and geotourism coordinator Susan Thomas.
Grants from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, state tourism offices, local towns and other sources funded the project, Dyer said.
In addition to helping visitors take a geotour of the broader Four Corners region, the map offers readers a taste of what’s on the larger website.
“Unlike a typical map, … this map is illustrated with points of interest and a little synopsis of that particular destination that is handled in more detail on the website,” Thomas said. “So you can see a detail on the map then go to the website and search for all the sites in that area.”
National Geographic’s new map and website for the Four Corners are two different methods of providing the same type of information, Dion said. Basically, the hard-copy map is derived from the website, which contains more information.
“They’re one and the same,” Dion said. “It’s just a different media platform.”
The website, www.fourcornersgeotourism.com, also has a map of the broader Four Corners region.
The map’s legend lists 11 categories: Accommodation; Action Opportunities; Community; Festival or Event; Food or Drink; Health and Wellness; Historic or Prehistoric Place; Local Points of Interest; Museum, Theater, Interpretive Center; Natural Area; and Outdoor Adventures.
Website visitors can select, or deselect, categories on the interactive map to refine their search. For instance, a visitor looking for Outdoor Adventures can deselect every category but Outdoor Adventure, so the map will show nothing but outdoor adventures. Moving the computer pointer to one of the Outdoor Adventure glyphs on the Four Corners map will activate a pop-up window with more information on sites such as Box Canyon Falls Nature Park in Ouray. Readers can continue on to a page full of information about a specific site, and, in some cases, to links to websites dedicated solely to the sites.
People who operate sites that fit under the geotourism principles can submit information to have their location added to the website map, Thomas said.
People in charge of sites ranging from bed and breakfasts, to museums, to guest ranches, to outdoor recreation businesses, to unique restaurants can just visit Add Places on the website and fill out a form. Then Thomas reviews the form.
“I check it over because we want good photos, clean language and good geotourism,” Thomas said.
If the site fits within the geotourism principles and all the information on the form is complete, Thomas will enter the business/organization on the website. Sites that don’t fit under the geotourism principles — such as national fast-food restaurant chains — won’t get added to the map.
“We have 800 different points of interest on the website, and we’re accepting more all the time,” Thomas said about people’s ability to submit their own information to the website. “There’s no limit.”
TIME TO CELEBRATE
Four Corners geotourism map and website officials plan to officially launch the new National Geographic project at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 2, at Aztec Ruins National Monument in New Mexico, Thomas said. Officials were still finalizing details of the event at press time.
The event will open a new door for travelers who enjoy the Southwest to appreciate the broader Four Corners region’s cultural and natural values from the perspective of locals.
“On the National Geographic website, everything is from the locals’ point of view …,” Dyer said, “and that makes it very unique.”
Reach Russell Smyth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 564-6030.