By Denise Fisk
Special to The PREVIEW
Are you new to the area? Looking for something to do? Want to change your life in a positive way? Do you enjoy just being outside in our wonderful part of the state? If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions then I have something for you to consider.
I answered “yes” to those questions myself and became part of a wonderful nonprofit organization called Chimney Rock Interpretative Association (CRIA). Having lived in Pagosa Springs only a short time, a year ago I discovered the amazing volunteer opportunities this wonderful group had to offer.
I discovered, in the process of becoming a volunteer, that CRIA provides visitors to Chimney Rock National Monument with an enjoyable yet meaningful educational experience. It is a fun way to learn about the ancient Pueblo people and the uniqueness of this, their home, through interpretative tours and special programs. And, amazingly enough, even though I knew nothing about the monument, I could still volunteer and they had a place for me that capitalized on my existing skills.
Once I learned how important it was to preserve this special place, I was consumed with a desire to learn even more and to share it with our many visitors who have traveled from as far away as Belgium and South Korea to experience the national monument.
Did you know that CRIA is the largest organization of volunteers in our county? For more than 25 years, CRIA has been in partnership with the San Juan National Forest to share the history of the monument. In 2012, CRIA was named volunteer organization of the year by the USDA Forest Service nationwide. As a 501(c)(3) organization, CRIA’s mission is to preserve and protect this heritage, yet share it with our visitors so they might learn and enjoy the monument and keep the history alive. But to do all this, we need your help.
Each year, CRIA must recruit new volunteers to meet the increased demand in visitation to the monument and to replace volunteers who have stepped down from their service. Without our volunteers’ skills and time, it would be impossible to do all that we do through our tours and special programs and keep the monument as a “must stop” when traveling southwestern Colorado.
We have a variety of volunteer positions, from maintaining the trails to describing the night sky, facilitating the needs of our visitors and leading tours of the area. We offer a wonderful mentoring program to get you up to speed in your specific area, and our excellent training resources will make you quickly feel confident during your volunteer time at the monument. Our biggest need this year is for leaders willing to take a tour of our two trails. And not to worry. You do not need a degree in anything to be a tour guide. We have all the information you need to become an “expert” in a short time.
The importance of sharing this heritage with our children as well as adults, and the important role Chimney Rock played in the history of southwestern Colorado, cannot be understated. Maintaining and sharing this with future generations is the priority of CRIA as well as the San Juan National Forest. Chimney Rock plays a role in our tourism culture and helps our local economy as a whole. Would you consider volunteering and helping us?
The health and safety of the public has always been paramount for CRIA. In response to the recent closures across the county and country, CRIA’s volunteer open house set for Friday has been canceled until further notice. For more information on volunteer opportunities with CRIA, please visit www.chimneyrockco.org or call 731-7133, where our friendly staff is eager to discuss your options.
CRIA offers a great, in-depth training program in a fun environment to anyone interested in joining our amazing team of volunteers. This year, volunteer training is on April 24 (orientation for new volunteers at the monument in the great outdoors) and on April 25 at the Tennyson Building Event Center located at 197 Navajo Trail Drive. Planning for alternative “virtual” training is underway if conditions warrant. RSVP required by calling 731-7133. CRIA also offers on-the-job training where new volunteers are mentored by seasoned volunteers and managers.
CRIA is the nonprofit organization that runs the daily operations and interpretive program at Chimney Rock National monument in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the San Juan National Forest.