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The public is invited to celebrate the unveiling of Mountain Heritage Park (MHP), from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Monday Oct. 10, timed to honor Indigenous Peoples Day, which celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures.

New signage welcomes visitors to Mountain Heritage Park. Licia Iverson photo

Event Highlights

Visitors will be rewarded with great photo opportunities as well as a chance to learn more about the area’s unique history and geography, specifically from special guest Roland McCook from the Ute Tribe.

Mayor Dan Shore is also expected, along with members of the Parks and Recreation Department. Light refreshments are planned, however hikers and cyclists should plan to bring their own water.

“Mountain Heritage Park is all about celebrating and educating visitors about our rich cultural heritage and how the surrounding mountains have shaped this culture for generations,” said Chipeta Mountain Project Guide Craig Nielson.

“Visitors will learn much about this area and how it fits into the larger geographical and human history context.  It’s a place to experience and reflect on our collective experience living in this amazing valley,” he added.

MHP is an initiative of The Chipeta Mountain Project (CMP), an all-volunteer local nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the cultural history of the lower Arkansas Valley through education, advocacy, special events and interpretive sites. Towards that goal, Project Lead/CMP Guide Craig Nielson will be doing presentations to 100 third-graders in October. Small groups will walk up to the site from downtown and return after their learning adventure.

In addition to remarks from Mr. McCook, Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA) will present an “Agents of Discovery Mission” that uses a mobile app geolocated to Mountain Heritage Park to teach about the history of Chipeta, an important Native American historical figure who served as an advisor and was a critical participant in the politics between indigenous residents and white settlers, as well as wife to Chief Ouray.

GARNA will also present Nuu-ciu Strong, a curriculum resource bin for educators to use to support teaching the history, culture, and present lives of the Ute people, whose ancestral homelands included the Upper Arkansas Valley. The Oct. 10 event and the interpretive signage now installed make this a great after-school, learning option for families, students and their teachers, encouraging an appreciation for the diversity of all people who call Chaffee County their home.

Project Acknowledgments

“Through the generous donation of time by local volunteer stone master Nick Avignon, we now have some beautiful custom stone work on the site, including a very unique conical trail cairn and stacked-stone retaining wall,” said Nielson.

“We want to thank all our local volunteers, funders such as Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), individual donors, the City of Salida and other project partners  for joining us in this venture. We could not have pulled off such a quality project without the expertise we were able to leverage. ”

What to Expect When You Visit

The park is located near the top of Tenderfoot (“S”) Mountain, along Spiral Drive, accessible by bicycle or by car. There is limited parking so visitors are asked to carpool and attendees should keep dogs on leash. Driving directions from downtown Salida are here.  An invigorating hike is also possible from downtown Salida, via the Frontside Trail or via the easier (but longer) dirt road surface of Spiral Drive.

Mountain Heritage Park at sunset. Debbie Jackson photo

Participants are encouraged to wear sturdy footwear and dress in layers for changeable weather conditions and the usual prevailing winds. The park has an outhouse and two benches; limited seating may be available for those in need.

The access path meets slope and width requirements but does not meet strict ADA rules for visitors without assistance, due to the gravel and the pathway.

People who work daytime hours can still join at the end of their day, just in time for the sunset (at 6:32 p.m.)

” We are very pleased to see the park completed after five years of hard work through the pandemic and the vagaries of local fundraising and competitive grant cycles.

We are proud that the design of the park was fully realized and that we executed the construction with minimal disturbance to the natural site and came in under budget,” Nielson concluded.

Featured image: Mountain Heritage Park now features interpretive signage and commanding views. Licia Iverson photo