Chimney Rock Interpretive Association receives National Volunteer Award


By Ann Bond
Special to The SUN

The Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) has been recognized nationally by the U.S. Forest Service for its unique partnership with the San Juan National Forest.

“This partnership has elevated awareness about a remarkable archaeological resource and contributed to its designation as Chimney Rock National Monument,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell in announcing the award.

Approximately 12,000 tourists visit Chimney Rock annually, contributing an estimated $95,000 to $175,000 to the local community through heritage tourism. CRIA volunteers have provided daily tours seven days a week from May to September since 2003.

“We are honored to accept this award and appreciate the support we receive from the staff of the San Juan National Forest,” said Susan Yalom, CRIA Board of Trustees president. “We look forward to continuing this close relationship and are extremely gratified by this special recognition.”

The non-profit organization currently has 80 volunteers, who are trained annually. Its interpretive programs are coordinated with those at other regional cultural sites, including Mesa Verde National Park, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. CRIA hosts monthly and annual special programs to promote understanding of the Ancestral Puebloans who lived at Chimney Rock, provides free tours to local students and sponsors academic research and conferences.  CRIA volunteers also function as site stewards, keep bathrooms open, conduct trail maintenance and maintain emergency training certifications.

“The dedication and work of CRIA as a partner organization is unparalleled,” said Wendy Sutton, Pagosa District Archaeologist.  “The enthusiasm and professionalism of the CRIA volunteers helps bring Chimney Rock to life for thousands of visitors annually.  It is a privilege to work with them.”

CRIA has been instrumental in winning grants and raising funds worth more than $450,000 to support research and site stabilization efforts at the national monument.  In 2009, CRIA was honored for its work by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation with its prestigious Preserve America Stewards Award.

For more information on Chimney Rock National Monument and Chimney Rock Interpretive Association Activities, go to