At the close of business this week, the Mesa Verde Museum Association store will vacate the Colorado Welcome Center at the corner of Mildred Road and Main Street in Cortez.
No longer will the Welcome Center be a place to purchase Mesa Verde souvenirs or tour tickets. The closure will be a loss for Cortez.
For a town that hosts as much tourist traffic as it does, Cortez offers surprisingly little in the way of memorabilia. The little store in the Welcome Center has been one of the few places to purchase postcards, posters and plush animals.
The Museum Association’s selection of Southwest-related books for both adults and children has always been exceptional, and for those, Cortez offers no other source. Whenever a bookseller departs, a town should mourn.
It’s not at all difficult to understand why MVMA has chosen not to continue leasing that space. While banners outside promoted tickets to Mesa Verde’s archaeological and cultural attractions, the store itself was not well known.
If it had been downtown, or had a store window, it might have seen considerably more retail traffic.
Since the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center opened just off U.S. Highway 160, visitors can buy tour tickets there, reducing demand for another location not at the top of the park’s winding entrance road.
The availability of Mesa Verde tour tickets at the Welcome Center was a dual boost to Cortez. It has provided visitors with a reason to base themselves here rather than in Durango, and when they stopped in to purchase tickets, the Welcome Center staff members were right there to provide a wealth of ideas about what else travelers might do while they were in the area.
The visitor center staff members still will be there, promoting things to see and do on this side of the park entrance. The museum association just won’t be directing traffic their way.
Local business leaders work hard to attract visitors farther west than the Mesa Verde exit. It’s too bad the bookstore relationship was not effectively nurtured, because the potential benefits to Cortez, while not wholly realized, were valuable.