Scenic Byway Designation at Risk for Leadville
**STORY UPDATE** It’s nice to know that local leaders can jump into action and remedy an oversight in quick measure. Leadville Today is pleased to report that communication between the Colorado State Byway Commission (see story below) and local tourism and economic development efforts has been re-ignited. It seems that Vice-Chair Charlotte Bumgarner has even re-considered her decision about changing out one of the photos for the Top Of The Rockies Scenic Byways display, at least for the Capitol exhibit. And who knows, maybe some of the Magic City’s charm will work its way into the DIA exhibit and Bumgraner will be open to swapping out one of those photos as well. Even if Lake County had to pay for the production work, the airport exhibit exposure would be off-the-charts for Leadville/Lake County. In addition, the CSBC and local leaders plan on meeting in the near future to make sure the Top of The Rockies Scenic Byways stays on track and out of jeopardy of losing its designation status. Thanks to everyone’s efforts in remedying this situation. LT will keep you posted.
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
You’ve seen the signs: Top of The Rockies Scenic Byway (TOR). In fact, every highway that comes into, or goes out of Lake County is part of the TOR. It’s a special designation, because not only is this 82-mile route of scenic roadside beauty one of 26 Colorado Scenic Byways, it’s also one of 11 of those representing the Bi-Centennial state at the national level. This 2-hour drive starts atop Independecne Pass, crosses the Continental Divide twice and traces the Arkansas River nearly to its source in the vicinity of Fremont Pass. The other vein travels along Highway 24 west, passing by historic Camp Hale as it eventually intersects with Interstate-70. In short, you could pretty much say that the TOR Scenic Byway is Lake County.
So when Leadville Today (LT) caught wind that Denver International Airport (DIA) was planning an Art Exhibit which would highlight Colorado’s beautiful Scenic Byways Program, reaching over 27 million passengers from May – September 2018, the anticipation mounted to see what beautiful photos of Lake County would be included.
Would the photos be of the two highest peaks in the state which tower over the TOR thoroughfare? Or perhaps one of the photos would highlight Leadville’s historic Harrison Avenue, or pay tribute to the beloved Tenth Mountain Division featuring their impressive granite Memorial which sits along the TOR route just outside their old training grounds at Ski Cooper. Maybe Lake County’s economic business anchor, the Climax Mine would be pictured, posed atop Fremont Pass with “The Sleeping Indian” in the background. The choices seemed endless, and exciting!
Certainly to have Lake County included in the exhibit would reap BIG tourist and economic development benefits. After all, DIA is the sixth-busiest airport in the United States. Last year, the number of passengers that DIA saw during that same period of time the art exhibit will be on display was 27,586,036 passengers. And the price tag? Zippo! Nada! No need for grant applications or matching county or city funds.
To learn more about the program and understand how the efforts came together, LT reached out to the Colorado State Byway Commission (CSBC), the project’s sponsor.
“I started with contacting all 26 byways in Colorado and asked them to submit 2 photos that they would want used to represent their byway,” explained Charlotte Bumgarner who serves as Vice-Chair of the CSBC. The art exhibit will be displayed at DIA’s Jeppesen Terminal just outside International Concourse A.
So are you ready for a sneak peak of the images? While the exhibit won’t go on display until May 1, Leadville Today was able to secure copies of the 2 TOR Scenic Byway photos which would be blown up larger than life on display before millions. According to Bumgarner, after months of planning, the two photos submitted on behalf of the TOR were from the Aspen Historical Society and the Independence Pass Foundation. Both pictures are from Independence Pass, one looking down on the Aspen side, the other looking down valley on the Lake County side.
Wait! What?! Of course, the two images are perfectly lovely photos, and kudos to these organizations for their selection success. After all, they were the only ones submitted on behalf the Top of The Rockies Scenic Byways, according to Bumgarner.
“The Top of The Rockies Byway is not very active,” she explained in an exclusive LT interview. “I’ve had issues getting stuff from them.”
But unfortunately, the roadmap of missed opportunity doesn’t stop there, because once the exhibit is finished showing at DIA, it will put into storage for a few months only to be re-installed at the Colorado State Capitol for a portion of the 2019 Legislative Session.
“We hope to have some publicity events there,” added Bumgarner.
So, the good news is that at least Lake County will be represented at some level thanks to the Independence Pass Foundation. But beyond that, it’s too late to do anything about it now. In fact, while LT’s offer to immediately send off a Tenth Mountain Division Memorial picture was well-received, it was also politely declined because the deadline had passed. The art exhibit is in the final stages of production and ready to be assembled at DIA, slated for a May 1 splash date.
As the interview continued, it was also clear that many of the publicly-funded, tax-based entities and non-profits charged to oversee such projects were simply out of the loop. But why name names, right? By now, most residents know where the buck stops, and that the lack of oversight and accountability is now such a systemic issue within these groups that it could possibly be costing Lake County much more than some positive publicity from a photo display.
And that’s exactly what Bumgarner revealed. Every year, the Byway Commission issues a survey and TOR is listed as being out of compliance. The byways were ranked one, two, and three, with TOR landing “at the bottom of the pack,” and at risk for losing their scenic byway status. That’s right TOP of the Rockies is at the BOTTOM! And while it is not CSBC’s intention to retract any byway’s official designation, ultimately it could happen.
“I guess somebody up there needs to get their act together,” Bumgarner concluded.
If that person is you, here’s the contact info: Charlotte Bumgarner, Vice Chair, Colorado State Byway Commission, 719-689-2461, firstname.lastname@example.org