Lawmakers want all Colorado national parks reopened
DURANGO — Several lawmakers want the state to reopen all national parks in Colorado after it paid to keep Rocky Mountain National Park operating during the federal budget battle.
State Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, was sending a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper asking him to reopen the parks, including Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison, the Durango Herald reported Wednesday.
State Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and state Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango, said they also want to sign the letter headed to Hickenlooper’s desk.
Last week, a bus carrying 60 tourists from Japan was turned away from Black Canyon, the newspaper said.
The federal government said last week it would reopen national parks if states paid the bill. Colorado responded by reopening Rocky Mountain National Park, where the gateway community to Estes Park is struggling to recover from flooding in September.
Hickenlooper’s spokesman, Eric Brown, said any reopenings will be a matter of funding.
“We are certainly sympathetic to every community impacted by the federal government shutdown,” Brown said in an email. “Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park are in a unique situation given the historic flooding last month and limited access to the area.”
Colorado is paying $40,300 a day to operate Rocky Mountain park, using funds from the Colorado Tourism Office. The state will ask the federal government to pay it back when the crisis in Congress passes.
Brown said the governor’s office has not received requests from southwest Colorado officials to reopen Mesa Verde.
“The economic implications of closing Mesa Verde on Cortez, Mancos and Durango are probably similar to closing Rocky Mountain on Estes,” Roberts said.
Coram said he is sympathetic to Estes Park, but it isn’t the only town in Colorado with troubles.
“Our communities are affected just as much as them,” he said.
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