OURAY COUNTY Walking in The Duke's footsteps

Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce Board Member Eve Becker-Doyle holds a sample plaque for the "True Grit" walking tour in front of the Old Bank Building at 521 Clinton in RIdgway. This was the mortuary where Mattie Ross identified her father's body in the classic 1969 film "True Grit."

Plaindealer photo by Bill Tiedje

By Bill Tiedje

Ouray County's newest tourism attraction, the “True Grit” walking tour is expected to be completed in coming weeks and will highlight 11 landmarks from the classic 1969 film that stars movie icon John Wayne.

In an interview, Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce Board Member Eve Becker-Doyle said organizers hope the tour of local filming locations will be a fun and interesting way to boost economic success in the county.
She noted “True Grit” is already among the most popular topics tourists ask about at the Visitor Center in Ridgway.
"We think it will be a draw and bring more (people)," Becker-Doyle said.
The project is sponsored by RACC and Ouray County Ranch History Museum with additional funding support from local John Wayne fans Jenny Cheek and Larry Harley, as well as the Weaver Family Foundation.
At each of the 11 historic film landmarks, a 12 inch by 10 inch plaque will describe the location's significance and role in the movie. Historical facts and narrative add thought-provoking detail.
Nine of the landmarks are located in Ridgway, two sites are in Ouray.
Becker-Doyle said the idea for the walking tour was cultivated through the Ridgway Creative District, and Main Street member John Mitchell suggested the use of informational plaques.
"I thought that was a fabulous idea," Becker-Doyle said.
Mitchell and local historian Jim Pettengill helped Becker-Doyle bring the project to fruition.
Each plaque also contains a map of movie landmarks, their sequence of appearance in the film and a QR code link for smartphones — directing people to RACC's new southwest Colorado Western film webpage.
"Once you’re at any site (on the walking tour), you can find any of (the landmarks) because they're on the map," Becker-Doyle explained. "You can start anywhere."
Timber Creek Gallery in Ridgway is one of the film's landmarks denoted on the tour — it's the grocery in front of which villain Tom Chaney shoots young Mattie Ross’s father.
Owner Rob Rose said, "I am asked almost daily where something is in the movie."
Rose said it’s not just American tourists that ask about the film, French and Japanese tourists are interested too.
Rose said it will be nice to have all the film landmarks organized with the walking tour.
Becker-Doyle said she learned a lot of movie trivia while completing the project, such as the role of actor Jay Silverheels, known for playing Tonto in the “Lone Ranger” television series.
For visitors seeking an in-depth look at the film's history,  RACC is also organizing guided walking tours.
Becker-Doyle said they hope to host guided tours on Fridays at 11 a.m. throughout the summer.
A curriculum for the tours has been developed. Each tour will begin at the Ridgway Visitor Center.
"We are in need of tour guides," Becker-Doyle said.
Anyone can sign up to volunteer as a tour guide.
"It doesn't have to be a big commitment," she said.
To volunteer, call Becker-Doyle at 970-626-9862 or email evebeckerdoyle@icloud.com.
Dave's Mountain Tours in Ridgway is also offering tours to remote filming locations in the area on their Swiss Pingauzers.
Becker-Doyle said she hopes the walking tour plaques will be installed by the end of July.