By Susan Yalom
Special to The SUN
I feel lucky to live here in beautiful southwest Colorado and one way to express my appreciation for this is by volunteering. I’m also lucky to have the time to volunteer in many ways. My favorite is volunteering with the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) at Chimney Rock National Monument. I look forward to opening the season on May 15 and am usually a little sad when we close on Sept. 30.
Visitation has steadily increased since becoming a national monument in 2012, one of only a few national monuments run by the Forest Service. Our volunteers work closely with the staff of the San Juan National Forest. I’m excited about the upcoming season and hope some new volunteers can get excited, too.
Volunteers can choose one or more of a variety of activities. They can also determine their own schedule and time commitment. Sometimes I help with the early morning maintenance team that checks the trails and facilities once a week, making sure everything is safe and in good repair. Sometimes I work in the Visitor Cabin to greet visitors and sign them up for daily tours. I have also helped at the upper parking lot, distributing the audio-tour sets and assisting visitors.
I enjoy being a tour guide, walking the two trails and talking to visitors about the archaeology and unique astronomical importance of the site, as well as its relationship to Native American culture, ancestral and present. I especially love helping with the monthly Full Moon program. Being on the ridge in the evening to watch the moonrise while listening to Native American flute music is a wonderful experience for visitors and volunteers.
There are other special events and evening programs that are planned for the summer. It requires a lot of volunteers to keep things running. I have gained many terrific friends through CRIA. That’s another very important reason for continuing to participate. I’m enriched by meeting the visitors who come from many places, here and abroad. I also feel good about supporting the local community. Increased visitation adds to the local economy. One other plus: it is fun. We need you and welcome you to join us. Please watch for the upcoming open houses in Pagosa. Come to meet volunteers and, maybe, catch the enthusiasm.
This year because so many new volunteers are needed, CRIA will host two Chimney Rock open houses to help community members learn about the exciting volunteer opportunities at Chimney Rock National Monument. The first open house will be held on Friday, Feb. 16 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m at the Ruby Sisson Library located at 811 San Juan St. The second will be on March 16 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the EcoLuxe building at The Springs Resort and Spa located at 165 Hot Springs Blvd.
CRIA’s Volunteer Training Days will take place on April 13 and 14 at the PLPOA Clubhouse located at 230 Port Ave. We are very excited for the upcoming season starting May 15 and want to encourage the community to join us.
CRIA is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that runs the daily operations and interpretive program at Chimney Rock National Monument under a Participating Agreement with the USDA Forest Service/San Juan National Forest. For more information and to view the 2018 Chimney Rock Calendar of events, visit www.chimneyrockco.org or call 731-7133.