CRIA volunteers work, learn, and have fun

By John Gwin
Special to The SUN

The Chimney Rock National Monument, America’s newest national monument, is operated by the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, San Juan Ranger District.

Each year, from mid-May to the end of September, between 80 and 100 volunteers donate in excess of 12,000 hours to maintain and protect the site.

Volunteers can select from a variety of fun opportunities; among them are interpretative guides, site monitors and Visitor Center hosts.

Some volunteers choose to perform maintenance on this historic 1,000-year-old site. Still others choose to volunteer for the “Light Brigade,” a vital safety role for the special night programs.

Special projects at the site such as Life at Chimney Rock or in the CRIA office are also available to volunteers.

Debbie and Scott Roddy are beginning their third year as CRIA volunteers after moving back to Pagosa Springs following a 30-year absence. They are members of the board of trustees and work at the National Monument as a cabin host and tour guide. Debbie especially enjoys learning more about the history of Chimney Rock and Scott enjoys expanding his understanding of the Ancestral Puebloan World. Both enjoy meeting the interesting visitors and sharing their knowledge of Chimney Rock. When asked their “wants” for the new National Monument, the Roddys would, “love to see a larger welcoming center and museum with on-site potable water.” They urge others to join the dedicated volunteers of CRIA who are most welcoming and have fun while learning more about the Ancestral Puebloan World.

Sandy and Herb Billings begin their ninth season at CRIA this spring. Herb is a “Pioneer” Coloradoan and he and Sandy enjoy meeting visitors from around the world while sharing their knowledge of Chimney Rock and the Four Corners Region. They suggest becoming a CRIA Volunteer to support the community and our newest National Monument. And more importantly, to have fun.

Janelle Pendleton begins her seventh year and has become invaluable for her administrative support in the CRIA office. She enjoys working with the dedicated CRIA volunteers and the Forest Service employees. Janelle is very proud that Chimney Rock is our country’s latest National Monument and hopes that a new, larger Visitor Center will become a reality in the near future.

Terry Pickett begins his fourth season at Chimney Rock National Monument as a member of the Maintenance Team. Looking for an opportunity to volunteer outdoors, he “took a cotton” to the work of the Maintenance Team. Terry is highly motivated to provide a safe, clean and inviting environment for visitors to appreciate the wonders of Chimney Rock National Monument. Terry would also like to see a modern Visitor Center with audio/visual exhibits built on site, “One the National Park service would envy.” He suggests volunteering at CRIA as a good way to get to know the area and form lasting friendships.

CRIA’s annual training for volunteers is scheduled for April 19-20, with a special site tour scheduled on April 19.

For more information about Chimney Rock National Monument and volunteer opportunities, go to or call 731-7133.

This story was posted on March 28, 2013.