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Reopening of Rocky Mountain National Park rejuvenates tourism in Estes Park


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By Jessica Caballero

The U.S. government is back in business, and so are many Estes Park area entrepreneurs, especially since Oct. 12, the date Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper diverted state money to open some basic functions of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Estes Park business owners are hopeful the upward trend continues through the fall and into the winter tourist season now that Congress has ended its stalemate and started the flow of federal money back into RMNP.

Businesses started seeing results last week, after Hickenlooper’s decision. The direct cause of that increase, however, is still a tough call.

“There is quite a bit more people now than there even were a couple weeks ago,” said Bryan Gillam of The Rock Inn restaurant, “but it’s hard to be able to attribute that to whether Rocky Mountain National Park reopened, or it’s because people are feeling more comfortable coming up here, now that there’s a couple of options to get up here and everything is open, rather than in the first two weeks after the floods.”

With both major U.S. highways coming into Estes Park closed, tourism and small, local businesses have taken the hardest hit from the floods in September.

“We had started getting some calls, but I think a lot of people diverted their attention elsewhere — and their vacation plans elsewhere — during that time,” said Jim Addison of Valhalla Resort near the national park. “Then we started to get calls whenever the town of Estes Park opened again, but when they closed the park [during the government shut down], all the calls stopped again.”

Tyler Lemirande of Estes Park Brewery on Prospect Village said things could have been worse, even though he said the brewery has lost about $350,000 in the past month, or about 90 percent of what it makes in a month.

“Thankfully [the flood] happened when it did,” Lemirande said.  “If it had happened in the beginning of the summer, there would have been more people here. We were winding down the season in September anyway. Winter came two months early.”

Unfortunately, Estes Park — including Lemirande’s home on the other side of town from the brewery – is still a no-flush zone, but he chooses to see the positive side, even as he’s fighting for business.

“Community, local Front Range people, have come together to clean up and get some businesses back up and running,” Lemirande said. “I appreciate everyone coming up from Denver to support our local businesses. Rocky Mountain National Park is a big employer and has helped bring tourism up.”

Visitors can still enjoy the park along Bear Lake Road, Twin Sisters Trailhead, and Upper Beaver Meadows Road.

According to the National Park Service, a few areas of the park still remain closed due to flood damage. Endovalley Road is open only from Horseshoe Park to the East Alluvial Fan Parking Area. Old Fall River Road is closed to pets and bicycles. Both Wild Basin Road, as well as Fern Lake Road, are closed at their winter parking areas.

Through Oct. 31, areas of Horseshoe Park, Moraine Park, Harbison Meadow and Holzwarth Meadow are also closed. For more information, visit the Rocky Mountain National Park website through the National Park Service.

To get more up to date information about visiting Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park, you can call (970) 586-1206, or (970) 586-1222 for 24 hour updates on road conditions.

 

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Explanatory Multimedia Reporting from CU Boulder Journalism Students
Reopening of Rocky Mountain National Park rejuvenates tourism in Estes Park