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December 16, 2017

Loss of historic Royal Hotel brings people of Yampa together

— Residents of the small South Routt Town of Yampa have signed on to take the first steps toward reinvigorating the town in the wake of the January fire that claimed an historical landmark and gathering place, the Royal Hotel.

More than 60 people packed into the Yampa Ladies Aid Hall Thursday night to listen to local economic development experts Jane Blackstone, Tracy Barnett, Carl Steidtmann and Noreen Moore, who urged the group to set small, affordable goals to gradually begin to breathe some new life into a historic Western town.

“It was inspiring to me to see that kind of community turnout and caring,” Blackstone, Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association economic development director, said Friday. “They have very authentic Western heritage and a real experience for people visiting this part of the world. They have a lot to build on.”

She added that at the end of the meeting, a significant number of those in attendance signed their names to three projects lists.

They’ll rally to create a new mural on the side of a building, plant their own flower barrels and tackle a list of fix-up projects. That includes refurbishing the picket fences with entry arches that are a recognizable design element in front of homes around town.

Yampa had a population of 429 in 2013, down from 443 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We talked about their strengths and things they could do,” Barnett, director of Mainstreet Steamboat, said. “I spoke about how you can start with baby steps — a Saturday afternoon painting party. You can get wooden pallets and make planter boxes with very little money, that will show there is a community and start building on that. It activates the streets and shows there is community pride. Once things get fixed up, then somebody else starts to care.”

Accomplishing small improvements becomes tangible evidence of positive change, Blackstone said.

When the 109-year-old Royal Hotel burned down in Yampa Jan. 5, the town lost a community-gathering place as well as a source of property and sales tax revenues in a municipality that has budgeted to raise about $110,000 this year from those two sources combined.

County Commissioner Tim Corrigan, who lives outside Yampa, said this week that he is actively encouraging the town to find a way to clean up the charred beams and rubble of the hotel, which still mar the downtown commercial district.

One of the remaining flagship businesses in the town is Montgomery’s General Merchandise, which harkens back to another era with its diverse merchandise and its reliance on an old-fashioned manual cash register.

Barnett said people who attended the meeting lamented the disappearance of a sign advertising Montgomery’s from Colorado Highway 131 (which runs right by Yampa without affording a view of the little historic downtown) because it was found to have been improperly placed on county property.

Not far from Montgomery’s, the historic Crossans’ Market building is being restored with grants from the State Historical Fund. The main floor, with 60-year-old retail fixtures and advertising signs in place, will serve as a historical display, while the upstairs will serve as town offices.

There is also enthusiasm among a community of artists living in Yampa for establishing a gallery in an empty building not far from the beginning of Routt County Road 7. The road leaves directly from Yampa’s commercial district and winds up the Bear River to all of the hiking, fishing, camping and hunting in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

Blackstone said that during a recent presentation to the South Routt Economic Development Council in Phippsburg, she urged that board’s members to work to define the narratives they can tell about their region. Those stories are needed to help prospective visitors understand the memorable experiences they could have in South Routt.

Refining the stories embedded in Yampa’s history could also become one of the next steps in the little town’s revival, she said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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Loss of historic Royal Hotel brings people of Yampa together