Restart Destinations Success Story: Canyons & Plains Regional Heritage Task Force

The Canyons and Plains Regional Heritage Task Force (Canyons & Plains) was approved to participate in the Restart Destinations Program by the Colorado Tourism Office in July 2021. Program objectives included: 

  • convene Canyons & Plains tourism stakeholders to align on strategies that advance regional tourism
  • build awareness of recent Canyons & Plains Regional Heritage Taskforce accomplishments
  • identify opportunities to address the long-term sustainability of the Canyons & Plains Regional Heritage Taskforce
  • champion the value of tourism and the role of destination organizations like the Canyons & Plains Regional Heritage Taskforce

Located in Southeast Colorado, the Canyons & Plains travel region includes the counties of Baca, Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Las Animas, Otero, and Prowers. The entire region is rooted in a rich cultural history and offers unique off-the-beaten path experiences. Prominent attractions include the Santa Fe Trail, Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, Comanche National Grassland, Boggsville Historic Site, Camp Amache, the Trinidad History Museum and the Ludlow Massacre Site.
The Canyons & Plains Regional Heritage Taskforce was initially formed in 2003, before being expanded in 2018 to include Las Animas County as a result of the Colorado Tourism Office’s regional branding initiative. The mission of Canyons & Plains is to promote visitation to and stewardship of the unique historical, natural, and cultural assets of southeast Colorado among resident, state, national, and international audiences. Because the organization does not have dedicated funding, it relies on a volunteer board and grants to implement its activities. 

Canyons & Plains was paired with Amy Cassidy, a CRAFT Workshop Facilitator with experience in tourism and outdoor recreation development, strategic planning, marketing, and communications in emerging and established destinations throughout Colorado, to develop a recovery assessment and facilitate a full-day community visioning and action planning workshop.
Canyons & Plains also convened a core team of Regional Heritage Taskforce members to provide input throughout the design and delivery of the program. Canyons & Plains hosted three core team meetings to identify priority barriers and opportunities for advancing tourism, discuss the findings from the recovery assessment, and guide workshop design.

Recovery Assessment and Workshop Results 

Canyons & Plains supported the development of a recovery assessment consisting of background research, a visitor profile study, insights from residents and tourism stakeholders, and input from the core team.

Canyons & Plains convened 15 tourism stakeholders virtually and in-person on December 14, 2021 for a community visioning and action planning workshop to review the recovery assessment and align on priority actions for driving near-term recovery and long-term resilience. Workshop participants represented a wide range of tourism stakeholders, including public officials, city and county staff, economic development organization representatives, federal land managers, land trust staff, and employees from attractions, such as museums and heritage sites. 

Workshop participants received an update on the Life Chronicles campaign that was developed in partnership with Canyons & Plains and the Colorado Tourism Office and discussed ways to integrate the campaign into upcoming promotional efforts. Participants also celebrated the success of recent accomplishments by Canyons & Plains, including hosting Santa Fe Trail Bicentennial Events in La Junta and Trinidad and the Colorado Preserves America National Youth Summit.

As a result of the workshop discussions, participants aligned on key priorities and action items to inform the development of a recovery action plan. Key priorities include:

  • advance new tourism opportunities and experiences
  • target repeat visitation by leveraging successful events and promotions
  • champion the value of tourism and build awareness of the role of Canyons & Plains

CRAFT Mentor Project Results

Following the workshop, Canyons & Plains was paired with Julie Klein, a CRAFT Mentor from the Tourism Consulting Collaborative, with experience in international tourism, sustainability strategy, standards and implementation, stakeholder engagement, project management, and communications content development, to deliver 75 hours of free consulting to conduct the activities listed below.

The purpose of this Restart Destinations Mentor project was to convene Canyons & Plains members to align on strategies that advance regional tourism efforts, and to build awareness of Canyons & Plains accomplishments and future plans. 

Project objectives included:

  • develop a Canyons & Plains work plan based on current projects and events 
  • develop Canyons & Plains travel region marketing assets for 
  • create Life Chronicles abstracts based on existing artwork and video series

Canyons & Plains achieved the following results through the Restart Destinations Mentor project:

  • draft work plan with current inventory of Canyons & Plains projects and special events efforts
  • five Life Chronicles abstracts for that includes Sand Creek Massacre, Dust Bowl, community story, Bent’s Old Fort, and Santa Fe Trail
  • three multi-day itineraries that highlight the travel region’s museums, cultural heritage, and unique natural history 
  • three digital stories to be featured in Google searches,, and social media
  • development of messaging that encourages Santa Fe Bicentennial attendees to return for future travel opportunities 

"The CTO's Restart Destinations Program helped us bring more folks to the table to move tourism efforts forward in our region. Through these new partnerships we hope to expand tourism opportunities and experiences that were brought forward during the program." -Rick Wallner, Board President, Canyons & Plains

CRAFT Recovery assistance for Tourism

About Restart Destinations Program

The Restart Destinations Program supports Colorado tourism destinations to drive faster recovery as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Awarded destinations receive a recovery assessment, a full-day recovery workshop, 75 hours of customized technical assistance, and $10,000 in direct marketing support from the Colorado Tourism Office. This program was made possible by a CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.