Engine on the Cumbres & Toltec Line, part of the major draw for the TABB. Courtesy photo
New Mexico and Colorado both Approve the Tracks Across Borders Byway Designation
by Muriel Eason
PAGOSA SPRINGS – The Tracks Across Borders Byway (TABB) Charter Commission met in Pagosa Springs Sunday, May 31, to get organized and make plans to activate the newly approved byway.
The TABB, approved by both the states of Colorado and New Mexico in April and May 2015, connects the Village of Chama, NM to Durango, CO, via existing roadways, following the route of the 1880s Denver & Rio Grande narrow gauge San Juan Extension, often on top of the original road grade, near many historic railroad remnants, through ghost towns and the lands of the Jicarilla Apache and Southern Utes and to the recreational gems of Navajo Lake State Park and Chimney Rock National Monument. The roads are remote and rustic at times, but they themselves are the pathway of the past and will soon be better marked to prepare visitors.
With this designation, the TABB joins an illustrious and varied collection of byways, each with its own unique charm and history (www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/). The TABB offers many unique Colorado and New Mexico stories related to the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, Native American and Hispanic culture and prehistory that are not offered by other byways in either state. “We’re at the very beginning of developing this byway, understandably it will take some time for TABB to reach its full potential, but we should maintain a goal of incorporating notable improvements each year,” observes Christopher Madrid, Rio Arriba County Economic Development Director and Member of the TABB Commission.
The TABB was a successful collaboration between two states: Colorado and New Mexico; the remaining two historic remnants of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad: the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad; two Native American tribes: the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe; and three counties: Rio Arriba, Archuleta and LaPlata.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad hosted opening day ceremonies Saturday May 23, to kick off the 2015 season in both Antonito, CO and in Chama, NM with trains running both directions. This marks the 45th anniversary of joint ownership by the states of Colorado and New Mexico.
The ceremony in Antonito featured Colorado Representative Edward Vigil of District 62, Colorado Senator Larry Crowder of SD 35, Cumbres & Toltec Commissioner, Billy Elbrock, Conejos County Commission Chair, John Sandoval, John Engs, Board Member of the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec, Aaron Abeyta, Mayor of Antonito and Muriel Eason, representing the TABB. Eason announced the official designation of the TABB and, in Chama it was announced by Rebecca Latham, Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Tourism Department.
Community support was critical to the TABB designation. Letters of support were submitted by Archuleta, LaPlata and Rio Arriba counties, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Jicarilla Apache Nation, Town of Pagosa Springs, the Pagosa Springs Town Tourism Committee, Town of Ignacio, Village of Chama, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, the U.S. Forest Service, Chimney Rock Interpretive Association, Navajo Lake State Park, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation, Region 9 EDD, the Pagosa Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, the Pagosa Springs Lodging Association, the Pagosa Springs Historic Preservation Board, the Chama Peak Land Alliance and many others.
Rio Arriba County Commissioner, Danny Garcia, appreciated the cross border collaborative effort stating: “It’s great to see us working with our neighbors to the North to highlight our common history that includes not only the narrow gauge railroad but also parts of the Old Spanish Trail and the many communities that formed along the way.”
Laura Lewis Marchino, assistant director for Colorado’s Region 9 Economic Development District, agreed in her letter of support, writing “The designation of this byway… will bring additional visitors to the area, strengthening the service sector which includes the purchase of food, lodging, supplies, fuel and amenities.”
An 11-member TABB Charter Commission is now responsible for the operating, marketing, fundraising plan to make the byway successful. The first organization meeting was held Sunday, May 31 in Pagosa Springs.