The Colorado National Monument currently injects approximately $23 million dollars a year into the Grand Valley area economy but thousands of tourists a year bypass it to visit national parks. They actually fly directly into Grand Junction Regional Airport then depart the Grand Valley to generate $108 million at Arches National Park, $70-million at Mesa Verde and a whopping $300-million at Rocky Mountain National Park. Rand McNally maps highlighting every national park generate millions of tourism dollars. Our monument isn’t mentioned.
Closer to home, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park report a steady increase in new foreign tourists, who on average spend more than domestic tourists. They also note new increases in the domestic tour groups which target only national parks. Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP attracted 192,570 visitors in 2011 (31,000 more than 2008) and 173,777 in 2012 (up 14,000+ from 2008). Great Sand Dunes NP fared even better attracting 254,000+ visitors in 2011 and 276,000+ in 2012. Becoming a national park means immediate inclusion in global and domestic travel magazines, books, articles, tours and promotions dealing with national parks. Both regions surrounding the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP and Great Sand Dunes NP report increased hotel tax and sales and use tax revenues. The same revenues are currently and notably down in Mesa County, Palisade, Grand Junction, and Fruita. Both GSDNP and BCGNP are situated in more remote locations while the Colorado National Monument lies within close proximity to a major interstate.
But with a little vision and bold leadership our community can realize John Otto’s dream, diversify its economy, immediately boost its international and national profile, help draw coveted high tech companies (think Fort Collins and Hewlett Packard), and create a healthier community with higher salaries and home values for generations to come for nothing more than the cost to cover new signage.
And even as these significant changes occur, Glade Park residents can keep their Federally adjudicated access, locals continue to recreate in and around the park just as they have since 1911, no water rights are impacted and boundaries and air quality classification remain the same. Listed below are more facts you may find of interest.
- In 1990 (following the crippling 1980’s energy bust) the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce made the re-designation of the monument to a national park it’s top priority. The effort proposed at that time and spearheaded by the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce would have tripled the size of the national monument. When asked about its efforts to create a national park, (past and current) Executive Director, Diane Schwenke, was quoted in the Daily Sentinel saying, “That may be the single most important thing we can do for the economic strength of our community.” The unemployment rate that year (1990) was 5.5. percent. Her statement is far more true today with Mesa County’s average unemployment rate hovering at 8.4 percent, nearly a point above the national average. Grand Junction”s 2012 sales and use tax revenue collections are down 7.7 percent compared to revenues in 2011 (info: 2013 Chamber of Commerce newspaper insert), Mesa County sales tax revenues are down 4 percent, our county currently holds the highest foreclosure rate of Colorado’s 12 metropolitan areas, 1 of every 10 rental units currently stands empty and budget cutbacks continue to negatively impact our schools and public safety.
- What’s helping to drive Western Colorado’s economy through this current bust? The Colorado National Monument. 454,000 people visited the monument last year. Their tourism dollars, direct purchasing and contracting by the National Park Service and employment of locals by the monument, injected a much needed 23 plus million dollars (not including tourist purchases of any outdoor equipment or airfare) in 2012.
- The Colorado National Monument could have a far greater impact as a national park. Enough so, it’s estimated it could significantly temper our valley’s boom, bust cycle.
- Mesa Verde National Park (not the steam train) is currently the number one draw to Durango and Montezuma County.
- 560-thousand tourists visited Mesa Verde last year generating more than 70 million dollars and 1-thousand jobs in Montezuma County alone (La Plata County’s additional revenue numbers currently unavailable).
- Arches National Park draws more than 1-million people a year generating 108 million dollars in revenues.
- Great Sand Dunes National Park became a park in 2004. By 2007 they saw a 10-percent increase in tourism (300-thousand visitors). In 2011, that average for visitors was up. Lodging tax revenues increased 7 percent. Despite it’s remote location the park has seen an increase in international tourists. The state of Colorado helps to market the park. This area’s community and business leaders were overwhelmingly behind its designation to a national park.
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National park, despite its remote location has also seen an increase in international tourists along with increased revenues. 176,000 people visited in 2010. The communities of Montrose and Delta County and leaders of both areas were overwhelmingly behind its designation to a national park. The state helps to promote it. Delta County Sales Tax Revenues are currently up 2-percent and lodging tax revenues are up 18 percent (a 40 percent increase over the same time period last year). Source: Delta County Chamber of Commerce. Montrose County predicts its sales tax revenues will rise by 4 % in 2013. (Montrose Daily Press)
- Longwoods International estimates that each dollar spent on tourism marketing in Colorado generates more than $190 in tourist sales.
- Communities and the nation just celebrated the official re-designation of Pinnacles National Monument in California to a national park. Elected officials in the economically struggling San Benito County were among its most staunch supporters, citing the economic benefits they flew to Washington D.C. to lobby for Pinnacles re-designation as a National Park.
- Among the top 10 most visited national parks in 2011, three are in the west: The Grand Canyon is number 2 with 4.3 million visitors. Rocky Mountain National Park is 5th with nearly 3.2 million tourists, and Zion National Park in Utah is 7th attracting 2.8 million tourists.
- Rocky Mountain National Park saw 2.75 million visitors in 2008 accounting for $234 million in visitor spending within the park’s “gateway” region (which lies within 50 miles of the park boundary). The park also generated 4,523 jobs in the region, creating more than $78.7 million in labor income, according to the study. Those numbers and dollars were significantly up in 2012, with more than 3-million tourists to RMNP. (National Park Economic Impact study). Strikingly, the near proximity of the park has done nothing to detract from quality of life in Estes Park. The number one reason visitors travel to Estes Park is to escape the city, relax and enjoy the solitude and quiet. (Estes Park Economic Study, Summit Economics)
- Several leading tour groups take direct flights to Grand Junction Regional Airport, then leave the area to visit national parks in Utah. The Arches region has made expanding air service a priority (NPS study Arches National Park Economic Benefits).
- Tour groups have clearly stated to Grand Junction’s VCB officials that they bypass the Colorado National Monument weekly because it is not a national park.
- Most polled believe a monument is simply a statue or marker.
- Tauck World Discovery, the number one tour operator in North America is among those that exclude the Colorado National Monument. The Grand Junction VCB estimates the dollar loss to our community from just this one group alone is 300-thousand dollars a year. The total loss from all tour companies would well exceed an estimated million dollars a year.
- More and more tours are excluding the Colorado National Monument. In 1991 more than 500 motor coaches (valued at an estimated 3-million dollars today) visited the monument. In 2011 that number fell to 125. Where did they go? To national parks.
- Recreation visitors to national parks in 2010 totaled 281 million people who spent a total of 12.13 BILLION dollars. (National Parks Economic Study (2010) http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/docs/NPSSystemEstimates2010.pdf .
- In 2010, visitation in national parks increased on average by nearly 4-percent, demonstrating the enhanced value of a national park in difficult economic times.
- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar of Colorado, recently attended the opening of Mesa Verde’s new multi-million dollar visitor’s center and noted that tourism and preservation create 9 ½ million jobs nationwide.
- Foreign tourists generate 75 billion dollars a year in the U.S. and the number one item on their itinerary of places to see is national parks.
- Nearly 60 percent of all travelers to the U.S. from overseas came to the Western U.S. in 2010, amounting to nearly 15 million tourists. Overseas visitors to the U.S. are forecast to increase by 46 percent by 2016, which could bring an additional 6.9 million overseas visitors to the West annually. Tourists from overseas stay longer and spend more money per trip (an average of $5,546) than tourists from other parts of the U.S. One third of all tourists from overseas visited two or more states on their visit. ( Overseas Visitation Estimates for U.S. States, Cities, and Census Regions: 2010. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, International Trade Administration U.S. Department of Commerce).
- The State of Colorado Tourism director, Al White, has endorsed re-designation of the Colorado National Monument to a National Park and says that for every dollar spent marketing tourism Colorado sees a $7.65 return on its money.
- The National Park Service predicts tourism will soon become the number one industry in the U.S. and park visitation will continue to grow.
- Dead Horse Point State Park is 5,300 acres located just outside the entrance to Canyonlands National Park. In 2008, the state park spent $40,000 to build 15 miles of biking and hiking trails in a stacked loop system linking the state park to the national park. Half the money was provided by a local corporation, Intrepid Potash, for whom the trails were named. The other half was paid off in year one. Since the trail’s opening, revenues for the park have been steadily climbing from $494,991 in 2008 to $709,202 in 2011. The park now takes in twice its expenses and is a net contributor to other parks in the state park system.
- This is a link to two Headwater’s Economics studies showing the positive economic impact of public lands and National Parks. (http://headwaterseconomics.org/land/west-is-best-value-of-public-lands/) (http://headwaterseconomics.org/headwaters/economic-impact-of-national-parks/)
- There is currently no other economic plan presented to the Grand Valley public, at virtually no cost, which can come close to the vast and immediate (as well as long term) impact of re-designating the Colorado National Monument a national park. By comparison several local entities are investing millions of dollars into projects that even combined are not likely to have close to the single impact of creating a national park.
- National parks are not just a singular economic entity, just as importantly they serve as critical gateways to other local venues, funneling heightened attention and tourists to our wineries, golf courses, bike and hike trails, our rivers, ski areas, the Grand Mesa and Bookcliffs, birding areas, and hot springs and resorts in surrounding mountain towns. People who say the Colorado National Monument is too small to be a national park are mistaken, there are 15 others of it’s same approximate size. They are also missing the bigger picture. The Grand Valley offers every kind of amenity for tourists and nearly every outdoor sport imaginable, for every season. It would take years to take advantage of all of our lakes, trails and “hidden” local gems. Most tourists only have a few days and their itinerary could be packed! This Outdoor Industry Association study shows exactly why those tourists and the sporting gear they buy is so important. “The National Park System generated $31 billion dollars and 258,000 jobs in 2010.” Those numbers don’t include sporting equipment or clothing tourists purchased, airline tickets or long distance travel. So, add to those National Park Service numbers, the $646 billion dollars and 6.1 million domestic jobs the OIA says the broader outdoor recreation industry generated in 2011.” And you’ll see why so many entities, including the state of Colorado, and the Western Governors’ Association are taking a serious second look at tourism. http://www.outdoorindustry.org/pdf/OIA_OutdoorRecEconomyReport2012.pdf .
- The top two current goals of the Western Governor’s Association: 1. Support Brand USA ( a new marketing directive to promote public lands and increase foreign tourism) and direct state tourism directors to assist and coordinate their efforts with this new national strategy. 2. Work with state legislatures to look at outdoor recreation and tourism as a major economic sector and develop a holistic strategy to manage state assets and revise state policies to facilitate growth in this sector.
- The 2,026,000 estimated visitor days in Estes Park (attributed to Rocky Mtn. National Park) in 2011 generated $187 million in total sales and $154 million in taxable sales within the town. With a 4% retail sales tax, the estimated sales tax revenue to the town would be $5.2 million – $3.4 million in sales tax on retail and $1.8 million on lodging. [Note: the 2% lodging tax, which is also collected, goes directly to Visit Estes Park and does not show up in the town’s tax collections. Summit Economics 2011 http://estesparkcvb.com/pdf/textboxes/Economic%20Impact%20Study%208-29-12.pdf