Shutdown takes hold in valley
Most federal doors were closed Tuesday, but work continued apace at the future home of federal offices near downtown Grand Junction.
Colorado National Monument was cordoned off, its gates closed, parking lots barricaded. Signs were posted warning people to stay off the trails.
Volunteers at the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau advised tourists that there was much more to see in the Grand Valley, including Grand Mesa’s coat of many changing colors.
Colorado National Monument, which is credited with pumping about $23 million a year into the Grand Valley economy, was one of the venues that a couple from Canada had driven to see, Kristin Winn, visitor-services coordinator for the VCB, said.
“They were disappointed but I showed them there were plenty of other things to do here,” Winn said, ticking off a list that included a run across the flattop mountain looming over the valley, a winery tour, downtown Grand Junction, a drive along Broadway below the monument and so on.
Bureau officials sent out talking points to hotels and restaurants stressing the same kinds of sightseeing opportunities, Winn said.
Monument officials were unavailable, but Grand Junction police spokeswoman Kate Porras said rangers with the monument and Bureau of Land Management checked in with the dispatch center as they normally do when their shifts begin.
The Colorado National Monument Association, unable to work out of the monument visitor center, will temporarily relocate to Dinosaur Journey in Fruita on Monday “if this continues,” association executive director Linda Spinner said.
“We hauled out a bunch of stuff today,” from the visitor center for sale at Dinosaur Journey, should it come to that, Spinner said.
The VCB also sent out a blast email to the tourism businesses with which it works, advising them that there are plenty of sights in the Grand Valley, bureau spokeswoman Mistalynn Meyeraan said.
Bureau officials hope to capture the market of visitors who typically visit the Grand Valley on their way to the national parks in Utah, which also are closed because of the federal shutdown.
While as many as 700 federal employees in the Grand Valley were furloughed, construction workers were laboring Tuesday to build the new offices at 445 W. Gunnison Ave.
Organizers of a bicycle tour planned for this weekend are ready to offer an alternate route, but have until midday Friday to make a final call.
While monument officials were unavailable, former Superintendent Joan Anzelmo said that previous Octobers have seen about 38,000 visitors on the monument.
Many of those visitors pay entry fees that remain with the unit to be used on projects in the monument, but the benefits of visitation extend to hotels and restaurants, Anzelmo said.
“To close down a revenue generator just doesn’t make sense,” Anzelmo said.