Estes Park businesses celebrate reopening of RMNP

8:51 PM, Oct 12, 2013   |    comments
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ESTES PARK - The only thing perhaps as pretty as Colorado in the fall are the people who come to see it. Liz Bowers and other business owners in Estes Park have been lonely until now.

"Yeah, it was a ghost town for a while," Bowers, owner of Rocky Mountain Tops, said.

First it was the actual floodwater taking its toll on the town the surrounding area. Then, it was the realization that roads usually used to access Estes Park were washed out. Finally, the partial government shut down led to the closing of Rocky Mountain National Park which is supposed to be a big draw for tourists right now and business for neighboring Estes Park.

"This is the most people we've seen since September 12th walking up and down the streets," Bowers said. "So, the park is open today. That is a very good thing."

At noon on Saturday, Rocky Mountain National Park reopened thanks to an agreement that the state of Colorado will pay a tab of $36,200 per day to pay salaries and operational costs through October 20th. The state's tourism budget will cover the costs for these 10 days, but Governor John Hickenlooper says he will try to get the money back from the federal government, eventually. The shutdown is causing 200 employees to be furloughed.

"Great to have the park open," Gordon Peterson, a tourist from Illinois, said. "We've been looking forward that would open cause we're here for just a couple weeks and then we'll be going back. So, having it open is just great."

People like Peterson are pumping economic life back into Estes Park. Bowers says the town really needed this.

"It feels like it's getting back to normal. That's how it feels," Bowers said. "This is good. This is good business. I think this is busier than I thought it would be."

Trail Ridge Open will open all the way through the park as soon as snow plows can clear the way opening another way to get into Estes Park.

"We're all just excited," Bowers said. "We were waiting for this day."

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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