June 1st, 6:01pm

On a Friday afternoon, we sat down with historian and author Curt Buchholtz at the local institution Kind Coffee, where we learned of Curt’s role as the Director of Major and Planned Giving for the National Park Foundation, Intermountain Region. His dual roles led to a broader conversation about preservation, and the parks system at large.

We learned Curt’s inspiration for writing Rocky Mountain National Park: A History was much like our own for creating Campfire Stories. After traveling to the Rocky Mountains, he could not find a complete history book of the region, so he decided to take matters in his own hands and write one himself.

Having literally written the book on the history of the region, Curt was able to answer a lot of our questions. He pointed out that the history is fairly shallow, just two lifetimes deep. In fact, the story of the West is a story of migration, he pointed out. He also brought clarity in why we may be having difficulty finding connections to, and resources for the American Indian tribes of the area, the Ute and Arapaho. His book points out that land within Rocky Mountain National Park bounds were only used by these groups seasonally as a pass-through for hunting grounds, and he explained that any stories we might find about the Ute and Arapaho in this region would have low credibility, and not collected scientifically.

We also talked about the challenge of the parks service answering for whom they preserve these lands. As Curt shared:

“[This] is the dilemma within the national parks… are parks to be preserved, or used and enjoyed? And if they are used, will the people’s enjoyment conflict with preservation?… That story of how Americans now regard and use their parks may be the most interesting tale of all. For a few people, enjoyment is purely an intellectual experience. For others, park use is as simple as fishing, sightseeing, or hiking. I know of people who rarely visit national parks, yet relish the thought that such places are being preserved. A simple concept like enjoyment becomes difficult to define. Rather, it is as diverse as a few thousand minds contemplating a single park on a beautiful summer day.”

As our conversation progressed, Curt spoke about how big our own challenge is for Campfire Stories. That the stories we collect will need to convey an expression of place and belonging, the essence of this place - and that in itself is a serious task. So to this end, Curt offered to help us further, which we’ll share more about this week!