With roots stretching back to explorer Zebulon Pike and earlier, Colorado Springs has as distinct a place in history as any city in Colorado. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized that fact Tuesday in its annual list of “Dozen Distinctive Destinations,” naming Colorado Springs as one of the nation’s top spots for heritage tourism.
“Colorado Springs is a place where landscape and history are uniquely intertwined,” said Jim Lindberg, director of preservation initiatives for the National Trust, announcing the award in a ceremony at the Pioneers Museum. “Colorado Springs has a history that has always been tied to bringing visitors to the landscape.”
The National Trust has made the list every year since 1999. Cities nominate themselves and winners are picked by a staff jury. This year’s list included Chapel Hill, N.C., New Bedford, Mass., and Sonoma, Calif.
“It’s very competitive,” Lindberg said. “You can see from this year’s list, there are some amazing places.”
Colorado has had eight cities make the list, second only to California, including Silverton, Durango, Georgetown and Fort Collins.
Mayor Lionel Rivera said Colorado Springs began as a tourism destination and tourism continues to be an important piece of the local economy.
“It’s a true legacy we are honored to have and protect in this community,” he said.
Matt Mayberry, Colorado Springs’ cultural services manager, said the award highlights the importance of historic preservation.
“We’ve got the structures in place to preserve our heritage,” he said. “All of this is challenging, but it’s too important not to focus on.”
The award isn’t only about civic pride, however. Lindberg said the designation helps promote destinations — and that heritage tourism is growing and visitors who come for history tend to stay longer and spend more than typical tourists.
Experience Colorado Springs, the convention and visitors bureau, submitted the entry for the Springs. Bureau CEO Doug Price said before he started his job just a month ago, he didn’t have a good sense of the region’s history. Tuesday’s award, he said, is an opportunity to get the word out to residents and visitors that there’s more to see than just a pretty mountain (although Pikes Peak itself was named a National Historic Landmark back in 1961).
Price said the visitors bureau is planning a marketing campaign around the region’s history and the “Distinctive Destination” honor.
“I think there’s more of a story to tell than we are telling,” Price said.
While the top dozen cities were named Tuesday, the National Trust holds an open vote on its website, preservationnation.org, until mid-March to pick a champion.
“This is ‘American Idol’ voting, historic preservation-style,” Price said.
Vote for a place in history
The National Trust for Historic Preservation names a list of “Dozen Distinctive Destinations,” then allows the public to vote for a winner on its website, preservationnation.org. Voting is open now and continues through March 15.
Here’s what the National Trust for Historic Preservation had to say about Colorado Springs:
“A gem of south-central Colorado nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains, few vacation destinations provide such an extraordinary range of tourism opportunities in a single location. The nearby mountains contain a vast array of recreational opportunities, as well as breathtaking geological wonders at places like Garden of the Gods Park, Cave of the Winds and the Paint Mines Interpretive Park.
“Home to Colorado College and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the town has a thriving arts and cultural scene-including the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, which interprets the early history of the area. Architecture buffs will not want to miss the stunning Cadet Chapel at the Air Force Academy, which is considered a masterpiece of Modernist architecture.
“After a day of walking, shopping or hiking, visitors looking to spend the night in the area have several top-notch options available, from the historic Broadmoor Hotel to the Cliff House at nearby Pike’s Peak which has hosted such luminaries as Clark Gable, Theodore Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill Cody.”