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Superintendent Cliff Spencer’s Most Important Mission


Imagine your house and how much maintenance it takes. Now imagine your house at 700+ years old. And on top of that, hundreds of thousands of people a year traipse through it! This is what Mesa Verde National Park faces in repairing Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America.

“Cliff Palace is Mesa Verde National Park’s number one priority,” says Cliff Spencer, Superintendent of the park. Why? It is also the most popular site to visit. It serves as an introduction to the Ancestral Puebloan culture for those hundreds of thousands of people. Some lesson plans also revolve around Cliff Palace for school-aged children. Thus, it is vital to the park and its visitors and future visitors.

“Here’s the problem,” Superintendent Spencer continues. “The northern two-thirds of the cliff dwelling was built on a sandstone slab, and that part is in great shape. But the southern one-third of the cliff dwelling was built on loose rock in ancient times.” Even in the 1930s they realized this part of the ruin was unstable and they built a retaining wall to hold back the rubble. The plan is to stabilize the whole area by rebuilding the 1930s retaining wall and anchoring the wall to solid rock beneath the structures.

The Cliff Palace reparation budget was originally calculated at $450,000 to 500,000. The National Park Service put up $350,000 for the project. Mesa Verde Foundation put up $150,000 for the work, of which $50,000 has already been put to use on the project.

Just as in any home improvement project you undertake on your family home, you uncover unforeseen problems that must be addressed. So, too, with Cliff Palace. All together the budget is short $300,000 to fix Cliff Palace. The Mesa Verde Foundation has promised $60,000 a year for five years to make up this shortfall.

So the Mesa Verde Foundation and Mesa Verde National Park have rallied together to tackle this challenge. Since the park is a World Heritage site that is dedicated to the works of man, it is a world-class challenge. We invite you to be part of the solution.

Please support the future by experiencing the past.