Colorado National Monument visitation up |

Colorado National Monument visitation up

Marija B. Vader
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
The scenic Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction attracted a record number of visitors in 2007. The area is popular with hikers and bicyclists; the latter seek out Rim Rock Drive, which crosses through the monument. (Janet Urquhart/The Aspen Times)

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” The breathtaking Colorado National Monument ” a land of canyons and rocky spires stretching from Grand Junction to near Fruita on the far western edge of the state ” is gaining notice at a record-breaking pace.

The number of visitors to the Monument last year was up 9.2 percent. The total number of people visiting the monument last year reached 714,229, up from 675,543 in 2006. Every month was another record-breaker.

“It was very busy all summer and really busy through the fall and even through October, there was consistent use of the trails,” said Joan Anzelmo, who began as superintendent May 12. “We’re so lucky to have it as our back yard.”

The most popular trails ” Lower Monument Canyon, Liberty Cap, Devil’s Kitchen and Serpent’s Trail ” saw the majority of the increase in hikers. Annual hiking use was up by 18 percent.

The park also saw an increase in other recreational visits including bicycling and rock climbing. Road bikers seek out the climb up and over the monument on Rim Rock Drive.

Visitation peaked in July, when 72,510 people experienced the monument, Anzelmo said. October’s sunny, dry weather contributed to a 34 percent increase in hikers last year, compared with October 2006, Anzelmo said.

The increase in visitors was further evidenced by a 12 percent hike in sales at the monument’s visitor center, from $208,000 in 2006 to $233,000 last year, said Denise Hight, operations manager for the nonprofit Colorado National Monument Association.

The visitor center’s gift shop is operated by the association, which helps fund outreach and interpretive activities in the area.

Anzelmo attributed the hike to the population increase in the Grand Valley and to an increase in tourism marketing by the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau and the state of Colorado.

For the first time, monument-specific annual passes were available online, starting in December, a new marketing tool.

That idea came out of brainstorming on “How can we make it convenient for the locals?” Anzelmo said. “Now it’s available without having to drive to the visitor center or go to an entrance gate.”

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