County’s historical society explores Barn Quilt Trail participation

Massive quilt squares installed on barns and houses indicate the location is part of the Barn Quilt Trail. The Rio Blanco Historical Society is working to bring the Barn Quilt Trail program to RBC. Pat Turner Photo
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RBC | All across the country, just off many remote highways and roads, are barns and other historical buildings decorated with a large painted quilt squares. The quilt designates the building as having historical importance and are often part of trail system designed to take tourists on a historical tour of the area.

Gaila Bell and the Rio Blanco Historical Society Trails and Antiquities committee are spearheading an effort to bring a Barn Quilt Trail to Rio Blanco. According to Bell the purpose of the trail is, “to preserve history, tell the stories of historical barns, buildings, settlers, guide tourists and visitors to unique shops, museums, farm stands and other points of interest in their county.”

There are currently two quilts up in the county; one at Bell’s barn off Main St. in Rangely and the other at the historic home of Jeff and Nancy Madison in Meeker. The committee has more than 200 potential historical sights which could be marked by quilts.

Bell estimates that more than 27,000 quilt trail tourists travel the trails each year, providing a significant economic benefit to the local communities.

“The Barn Quilt Traveler spends an average of three to seven days in an organized Barn Quilt Trail county.  During that time these individuals will be seeking unique shops, historic motels, cafes, local activities and festivities, Barn Quilt Trail maps and Books,” she said.

The trails can also benefit the property owners, providing them with a platform to tell the history of their property and the individuals involved with it. The participating properties will not be subject to any historical regulations.

The committee will soon begin encouraging county residences and organizations to honor a loved one by choosing a historical barn, building or shop and erecting a barn quilt sign on that building.  The individual or organization will also research the history of that building and turn it into the director of the Historical Trail Committee. The committee will then develop a map of the trail and a book with photos and information about each location. The maps and books will be available for tourists at strategic locations around the county such as Chamber of Commerce offices, museums and town halls.

Bell first became interested in the project after traveling a Barn Quilt Trail in Nebraska several years ago. “Over the course of two weeks, I and my friend traveled this unknown county of Nebraska following the roughly sketched out map of the Barn Quilt Trail buildings and researching their origins and history.  At night we stayed in a couple of motels that were filled with the same Barn Quilt Travelers seeking the beauty and history of the back roads of this unknown off the freeway county.  During that time, I discovered my favorite little material and hobby store, mountain biking and hiking, floating around in a kayak on the local small lake.  I came home with a new goal of seeking out these Barn Quilt Trails on the back roads of the USA.  One day my husband and I were traveling from Rangely to the Campbell Creek Ranch and I realized Rio Blanco County was the perfect Barn Quilt Trail.  It’s a county that’s diversified with history, buildings and things to do.  From the petroglyphs around Rangely to the beauty of Meeker and White River National Forest a traveler can easily spend days soaking in the outback of our county and the beauty it has to offer,” she said.