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Enter the World of the Ancients benefit dinner

By Cherlyn Gwin
Special to The PREVIEW

Photo courtesy CRIA Chimney Rock Interpretive Association volunteers Nyla Ehla, Jean Carson, Cassie Carney and Debbie Roddy display a sample of the table settings that will greet those who attend Friday’s celebration of the designation of Chimney Rock as a national monument.

Photo courtesy CRIA
Chimney Rock Interpretive Association volunteers Nyla Ehla, Jean Carson, Cassie Carney and Debbie Roddy display a sample of the table settings that will greet those who attend Friday’s celebration of the designation of Chimney Rock as a national monument.

On June 14, the multiple worlds of our local Puebloans — past, present and future — will merge for one exciting evening.

The ancient historic culture will be represented by a newly constructed T-door, that mysterious creation that may have been designed as an entrance to one of the many sacred rooms at Chimney Rock, or simply constructed for easy access when carrying large burdens.

Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) invites all to join the excitement and celebration of the designation of Chimney Rock as a National Monument last fall by President Obama.  The national designation did not bring new funding for the continuation of the interpretive programs or for the preservation of the site.  This culturally diverse evening will fill those gaps in funding for enhanced educational tours and continued maintenance of a major tourism attraction for Pagosa Springs and the Four Corners region.

Today, we use the term “Ancestral Puebloans” to refer to the people who lived in the area and recognize they are the ancestors of modern day Puebloans. Therefore, Chimney Rock has a spiritual significance for many tribes.  Preservation of the dramatic site and its historic value to our community, both culturally and for eco-tourism, is a priority for CRIA and the U.S. Forest Service.

The benefit is in support of Chimney Rock National Monument and its important role in our community as a tourism destination that brings our area’s history alive.

Roughly 1,000 years ago, the Ancestral Pueblo People built more than 200 homes and ceremonial buildings high above the valley floor, probably to be near the twin rock pinnacles. Currently, 22 national monuments are associated with Native Americans and it is exciting to have Chimney Rock National Monument as our neighbor.

The Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse, 230 Port Ave., will be the setting for an evening that promises fine food and a variety of great music.

Charles Martinez, our skilled flute player for all Full Moon programs at Chimney Rock, will begin the evening’s entertainment during cocktails.  John Graves, master of the keyboard, will provide our elegant dinner music.  Following dinner, the San Juan Mountain Boys will keep dancers spinning and twirling for the remainder of the evening.  The evening includes door prizes, a silent auction, a brown bag drawing and a cash bar.

Regional businesses have generously provided an extensive array of items for the evening’s silent auction.  Tour packages include overnight accommodations and dining, as well as admission to a variety of activities in Durango and Creede.  Adventure excursions around Pagosa Springs are included in the auction for summer entertaining of family and guests.  Beautifully hand-crafted jewelry, chocolate trays, gift certificates from a variety of generous businesses and many more exciting items are included in the auction.

Proceeds from the silent auction will ensure CRIA can continue providing tours for regional schools free of charge before and following the regular tour season of May 15-Sept 30.  As a result of the new national monument designation, the number of requests by schools for complimentary tours has greatly increased.  Complimentary ollege archeology and geology classroom tours are also provided at the site.  A new education initiative is being planned that will provide classroom materials to students so they have cultural and historic background information  prior to their visits to Chimney Rock.

The importance of educating our children about the significant role Chimney Rock played in the history of our area cannot be understated.  Maintaining it for future generations to study and visit is a priority.  Chimney Rock plays an important and valuable role in our tourism culture and in our economy as a whole.   The evening’s benefit will provide funds for the care of this place of unparalleled beauty sitting on a high mesa at the southern edge of the San Juan Mountains.

The ancient people of Chimney Rock may have used signal towers at various locations to transmit calendrical information to Chaco Canyon to help with planting crops and celebrating sacred days of their calendar.  Be sure to mark your calendar for this exciting evening — June 14, from 6 to 10 p.m.  Tickets are now on sale at Higher Grounds Coffee, Boulder Coffee Cafe, the Humane Society Thrift Store and the CRIA office (731-7133).  Reserve a table for eight for $300 or purchase individual tickets for $35. If you cannot attend the benefit, please consider supporting Chimney Rock Interpretive Association’s new education initiative by donating online at www.chimneyrockco.org or call 731-7133 for more information.

Chimney Rock Interpretive Association, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, conducts daily tours of the monument and operates the Visitor Center during the season. Their mission, in partnership with the San Juan National Forest, is to provide for the site’s care, protection and preservation, as well as provide public interpretation and education, and manage the interpretive program at the monument under a special use permit with the Pagosa Ranger District, USDA Forest Service.

This story was posted on June 13, 2013.