History of McElmo Canyon Research Institute
MCRI is hosted by Kelly Place Bed & Breakfast, a 38-acre historical site on an archaeological preserve. Kelly Place was named for George and Sue Kelly who built their home on the property in the mid-1960s and were the first to excavate and explore the archaeological sites on their property in a professional, organized way. George was in his 70s when they moved to to their McElmo home and was a horticulturist from the Denver area. He was a pioneer in xeriscape who helped found the Denver Botanical Society and the Denver Botanical Gardens. He was insistent that the young town of Cortez set aside large tracts of green area in the city center for parks. He planted many trees, including specimen fruit trees on their own property, giving it the feel of "an oasis on the edge of the desert."
In 1980, George and Sue moved to a smaller property in the Canyon, selling the Kelly Place to a young couple whose dream was to make it an outdoor education center. Rodney and Kristie Carriker worked hard for 24 years to bring this dream to fruition. Rodney heard about an organization called Elderhostel, which, at the time, organized educational vacations for senior citizens on college campuses. Rodney realized that Kelly Place would be an ideal location for such programs, offering lodging, meals, and on-site archaeological experiences led by knowledgeable archaeologists and other teachers. Thus, Kelly Place became the first place off of a college campus to host Elderhostel programs. Today, few programs are held on college campuses, and younger and more active adults are participating in thousands of Road Scholar programs sponsored by Elderhostel.
In 2004 Kelly Place Bed & Breakfast was sold to Jerene Waite and Marc Yaxley who have continued the dream the Carrikers had, preserving the archaeological and historic remnants of their unique site while sharing it with guests. Jerene Waite was elected by the MCRI Board of Directors to the position of Chief Executive Officer. Under her direction, MCRI has continued to provide Road Scholar volunteers for various service learning programs on the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, and Kelly Place has continued to offer educational programs to school groups, scout troops, and even families who wish to learn more about the fascinating early cultures of McElmo Canyon.