Summer season brings growth in numbers at national monument

Evergreen resident Jo Ann Watts has made countless treks through Rocky Mountain National Park and other Front Range gems.

But on a sun-drenched, cool Saturday, Watts, 66, took in her second tour of Colorado National Monument in as many years, this time bringing along a longtime friend from Texas.

“I had no idea this place was here until four years ago,” Watts said, standing outside the park’s visitor center. “You certainly hear a lot about Rocky Mountain, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.”

A tip from a neighbor, a geologist who attended Mesa State College, led Watts west in search of new, natural wonders.

For the summer season of June, July and August, the monument experienced moderate year-to-year increases for visits, camping and cycling. But it’s a larger spike in traffic at the park’s visitor center, 64,866 this summer compared with 58,604 last summer, that has Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo smiling.

For the year to date, visitor center traffic is up nearly 30 percent, and August was the park’s second-best month ever for overall sales. By 10 a.m. Saturday, the parking lot in the monument was bustling with 14 vehicles.

“Increasingly, the monument is on the national map of places to visit,” said Anzelmo, who attributes the growth to focused marketing efforts by her staff and the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau.

People apparently are listening. The park was mentioned among must-see cycling destinations in a Sunday-edition travel section of the New York Times last month. The park made the front page several times this year on the National Park Service’s Web page, which profiles the nation’s 393 national parks. The monument also will be featured in an October edition of Sunset Magazine, Anzelmo said.

A documentary marking the park’s centennial has been produced by Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting Service and is scheduled to air in November.

The publicity, among other things, has resulted in more interest from tourism bus circuits, all of which make extended stops at the park’s visitor center, Anzlemo said.


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