Study: Scenery is greenery

Monument generated $26.5M in single year

Deanna Benzschawel of Sheboygan, Wis., admires the view Monday from Cold Shivers Point on Colorado National Monument. Benzschawel was touring the monument with her daughter Leah Cabot, who moved to Grand Junction from Pueblo two weeks ago.



Colorado National Monument generated more than $26.5 million in economic activity in the Grand Valley in 2012, a National Park Service study released Monday said.

Another study released the same day said the 16-day government shutdown cost gateway communities near national parks, such as Fruita and Grand Junction, more than $414 million in visitor spending.

The shutdown study didn’t single out the effects on Colorado National Monument of the closure of the parks, but it did peg overall attendance in 2013 at a little more than 409,000, about 45,000 less than the level of visitation the Park Service logged in 2012.

The 2012 visitation figure reflected local efforts to promote the spires, canyons and red-rock walls of the 20,000-acre monument overlooking the Grand Valley, said Barbara Bowman, manager of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau.

“It demonstrates the power of having a unit of the National Park Service in your back yard,” Bowman said. “We’ve worked hard to promote the monument.”

The back of Bowman’s business card, in fact, shows an iconic photograph of the monument. The back of the business card that Bowman’s boss, Debbie Kovalik, carries shows the wine country of Palisade. Kovalik is the director of economic, convention, and visitor services for Grand Junction.

Even though the VCB leans heavily on the description of the valley as “Colorado’s wine country,” “We always lead with the monument,” Bowman said.

If the monument were to be designated a national park, it might be able to capture a significant international market, Bowman said, noting that 26 international tours a year arrive at Grand Junction Regional Airport and take buses directly to national parks in Utah without stopping to take in the monument that overlooks their route through the Grand Valley.

The monument also supports 356 jobs in the Grand Valley, the Park Service report said.

Nationwide, Park Service venues, including parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites and other locations, generate $26.75 billion, the report said.

It also highlighted direct spending of $14.7 billion by 283 million visitors in communities within 60 miles of park sites.

Overall, the Park Service generates $10 for every $1 spent on the agency, according to the peer-reviewed report drafted by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Interior Department officials noted that economists with the survey were given the task of gauging the economic effects of Park Service venues after the author of previous reports died. Direct comparisons between the 2012 and previous years’ surveys aren’t directly comparable because of the different methodologies, officials said.


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