Marble looks to mine vein of summer tourists |

Marble looks to mine vein of summer tourists

Post Independent file photo/Jim NoelkerThe Colorado Yule marble quarry is one of Marble's best-known attractions. The new Marble Tourism Association will start promoting those attractions this summer.

Some business-starved Colorado towns would probably change their name to Gizmo in exchange for Marble’s tourist attractions. The short list includes:

– The world-famous Colorado Yule marble quarry.

– The Crystal Mill, which is one of Colorado’s most photographed landmarks.

– The marble fabricating plant ruins that run for a quarter-mile along the Crystal River.

– Schofield Pass, a spectacular four-wheel drive road that connects Marble with Crested Butte.

– The ghost town of Crystal, which sits above Marble.

– Beaver Lake, a Colorado Division of Wildlife stocked lake that provides easy access to anglers, and postcard views of surrounding mountains.

– A smattering of historic buildings that remind visitors Marble was once a bustling quarry town with hundreds of residents.

Marble is long on attractions but has been short of funds to promote them. That situation is about to change, to some degree.

A tax-funded program from Gunnison County kicks in this year that will enable the newly formed Marble Tourism Association to publicize the area’s attractions.

But don’t expect floodgates to open and swamp the town with visitors.

“We’re not on the beaten path, which will prevent us from being overrun with tourists,” said Marble Tourism Association treasurer Vince Savage. “We’re looking for eco-tourists, who have some consciousness of wilderness sensibilities and who share our values.”

In January or February, Gunnison County’s Local Marketing District, which residents county-wide approved in November 2002, will start sending the Marble Tourism Association the Crystal River Valley’s share of lodging tax revenues to promote tourism, said district spokesperson Jane Chaney.

The 4 percent tax on overnight stays throughout Gunnison County is expected to raise up to $1 million its first full year, Chaney said, but she doesn’t know how much of that will end up in Marble.

One thing is known ” there are 19 lodging establishments between Highway 133 and Marble, according to Savage.

“We were shocked at the number,” Savage said.

There are also at least nine other businesses in Marble and the surrounding area, for a total of 28 businesses.

“People don’t think there are 28 people in the whole town,” Savage said. “But there are a significant number of tourist-related businesses here.”

The Marble Tourism Association has a contract with Gunnison County to administer funds the county’s accommodation tax raises, Chaney said. The association received its Colorado nonprofit certification last year, and is run by a board of directors.

Marble’s tourist season runs from mid-June through the aspen leaf season, Savage said.

The association’s target market includes people who like to hike, fish, ride horses and enjoy the area’s natural beauty.

“We don’t want a bunch of noisy ATVs or snowmobiles, zooming around the streets,” Savage said. “We’re talking low-key. We have no intention of overrunning the valley with tourists.”

The association’s first-year goal is to upgrade Marble’s Web site and to publish a tourist brochure.

Savage admits some Marble residents, including one or more business owners, object to their piece of paradise attracting outsiders. Marble has virtually no economy of its own, and in the off season there’s not even a place to buy gasoline, or a loaf of bread. So it needs a boost from tourism to help pull it out of being a bedroom community.

“If you want a real community, you need a local economy,” he said.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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