Overlooking Cuchara and the old ski area the county hopes to turn into a community park. (Flickr/David Miller)
The Cuchara Foundation has raised roughly $90,000 — about two-thirds of the funds needed — to buy land to turn part of a failed Huerfano County ski area on Cuchara Mountain into a family-oriented, year-round county park that will hopefully attract tourists. That according to Max Vezzani, a county commissioner who is helping to spearhead the effort.
The land in question comprises the base of the old ski area and includes lift 4, the bottom of lift 3 and most of the buildings that were used in the base area. You can find a map of the parcel at by logging onto www.CucharaVillage.com and then clicking on Cuchara Mountain Project.
The Cuchara Mountain Foundation must raise $150,000 by November so it can turn the land over to Huerfano County, which, with the input of county residents, seeks to create a 44-acre park on the mountain.
“Eventually our plan is, once the property is paid for, then we will do a lot of public outreach,” Vezzani said.
He added that this is a “grassroots project” and, “The county appreciates our advisory group of volunteers doing a lot of leg work (on the mountain). We are pretty excited about it. … In general, people seem to be pretty excited and receptive to the idea of a small mountain park.”
The commissioner said the county has established a task force “of local folks” to address safety and security at the park site and is securing a grant to do a study on what needs to be done with structures on the site and landscaping. There will be very little public use this year. Just tours, he said. But tours will be taken by county residents and consultants to identify possible uses for the park.
“What’s it going to be? Well, a ski resort didn’t work. Obvious uses are picnicking (and tubing in the winter),” Vezzani said.
Yet he relates that one promising attraction might be cross-country skiing. Although 44 acres does not produce an awful lot of trail, he believes the county can link the park to abandoned county roads in the area. That will also benefit other proposed uses such as mountain biking and hiking.
As a tourist destination, Verzanni said there have been “lots of discussions” after the ski area closed about the mountain park “getting a pretty fair amount of tourism business in the summer.” However, the commissioner says it’s the county’s intention to make it an all-season park “to stimulate the (area’s) tourism economy” with cross-county skiing being the primary winter draw. He adds that there is also the potential for people from out of the area building second homes near the park site.
Cuchara Mountain is about 27 miles southwest of Walsenburg, the county seat. Foundation representative Lois Adams adds that to make a tax deductible donation toward the park parcel purchase and to have your name enshrined at the park, write to Cuchara Mountain Park, c/o the Cuchara Mountain Foundation, 137 Cuchara Ave. East, Cuchara, CO 81005.