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Mesa Verde ponders future of Far View Center

Former visitor center has been empty since 2014

Mesa Verde National Park officials are working hard to find new occupants and get a historic place designation for the Far View Center.

The facility served as the park’s visitor’s center until the new building opened in 2013 at the bottom of the cliff. Mesa Verde compliance coordinator Lizzy Dickey said the Far View Center was used as office space until 2014, but has since been vacant.

“We’re moving forward on having the building reoccupied,” she said Friday.

Construction was completed in 1968 on the center, which is about 15 miles into the park.

It could still be 1-2 years before they find new occupants, Dickey said. Several groups have expressed interest in the building, but nothing is final, she said.

University of Colorado Boulder is interested in the space for its museum studies program, she said. Students could create exhibits at the center as part of their studies, she said.

The Cortez Cultural Center and Colorado Preservation Inc. might also be interested, Dickey said.

“We have a lot of support, and there’s been a ton of interest,” she said.

Park officials are leaving the door open for other groups who might want to use the building, Dickey said. It could include exhibits on natural resources, art or local history, depending on what local partners want to work with the park, she said.

The building isn’t in bad shape, but still needs work, she said. It would need to be made more accessible, would need lead and asbestos abatement and HVAC work, she said.

The park is hoping for a designation on the National Registry of Historic Places for the building. That means that the center would be labeled historically significant at the local or state level, Dickey said. Officials also are pursuing a National Historic Landmark designation, which means the center would be determined significant on the national level, she said.

It could take up to a year before park officials know whether either designation has been awarded for the center, Dickey said.

Far View Center was built as part of the National Park Service’s massive “Mission 66” campaign in the 1960s, Dickey said. The initiative was an effort to upgrade infrastructure in every park service unit. The Far View Lodge, Morefield Campground area, the tunnel and much of Mesa Verde’s roads were built as part of the Mission 66 campaign, she said.

“It was the largest funding campaign ever for the park service,” Dickey said.

A National Historic Landmark designation is more likely if the Far View Center is determined to be different or unique when compared to other visitor centers built during the Mission 66 era, she said.

Since the Far View Center’s circular design was inspired by kivas, it’s one of few Mission 66 buildings that represents the cultural identity of its surroundings, Dickey said. Other visitor centers built in that time were created to integrate with the landscape, but Far View is more abstract, she said.

It costs the park money to have the building sit vacant, Dickey said. If it is reoccupied, it would be used only seasonally, she said. They hope to see it reused because of its historical significance, she said.

“We want it to be used by the community,” she said. “We’re glad that there’s interest in it.”