Paper No. 110-9
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
DEVELOPING GEOHERITAGE ALONG THE GOLD BELT BYWAY, COLORADO
The Gold Belt Byway in south-central Colorado exposes rocks spanning 1.8 billion years of Earth history. It includes paleontological sites of international historic and scientific importance such as the Garden Park National Natural Landmark, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, and Indian Springs Trace Fossil National Natural Landmark. The area also includes significant stories about the gold mining history of Colorado at Cripple Creek and early oil and gas exploration near Florence. Scenic sites such as the Royal Gorge and Skyline Drive expose vast rock sections. The area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Park Service (NPS), local city governments, and private land owners including a large gold mining company. In response to interest from NPS to propose sites within the United States that could potentially join the UNESCO Geopark network, NPS and BLM collaborated in 2010 to prepare a proposal to move forward a nomination for designating the Gold Belt GeoPark. GSA GeoCorps interns assisted these agencies to examine and map sites along the route and evaluate geologic assets relevant to the concept of geoheritage, and drafted a letter of proposal. As the US involvement in GeoParks became unrealistic due to geopolitical reasons, the proposal became one of the models in an alternative effort that is still ongoing to establish a plan for a national geoheritage program. The primary challenges faced are to keep the proposal active and to garner more support from local communities to embrace the concept and envision the economic benefits. Renewed interest in establishing a national geoheritage program and the establishment of a U.S. Geoparks National Committee will add additional impetus to further refine and develop the concept of a Gold Belt Byway National Geopark.