Rocky times for some businesses in Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – An estimated 25,000 vehicles travel through Glenwood Canyon every day, but from March 8 to March 11, the number of cars and trucks getting off I-70 at Glenwood Springs was way down.
Those are the days when I-70 was closed through the canyon, from Glenwood at the western end to Dotsero in the east, after a massive rock fall severely damaged the road.
And while local business in general may not have suffered badly from the episode, according to the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, certain businesses did feel the pinch.
At the Tomahawk Auto Truck Plaza in West Glenwood, the normal lineup of big rigs parked outside the combined cafe and convenience store simply disappeared.
“Slow … very slow,” was the comment from Delia Martinez, a 14-year employee at the truck stop, concerning customer traffic over the past week.
“Business has really slowed down, and it has a big impact, but what can you do?” she asked rhetorically. “Mother Nature spoke up!”
She estimated that between 30 and 50 big rigs typically stop at the Tomahawk on any given day, noting, “They stop and eat, get fuel, take their shower.”
This week, she continued, “I got some trucks,” primarily locals starting out on a trip or trucks coming from the west that had not fueled up at the nearest truck stop between Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs, at Cameo.
“They have to come here, or they can’t go on to Denver, without enough fuel,” said Martinez, adding that there are no truck stops along the northern detour route in Meeker, Craig or Steamboat Springs.
Concerning the possible reopening of single-lane traffic through the canyon on Thursday, she said, “I’ll be ready. If they open it up, thank God for that.”
And if not?
“We’ll just have to deal with it one day at a time,” she concluded.
She said this closure, given the one-two punch of the Great Recession and the damage to the interstate, has been worse for business than the last time the interstate shut down, during a blizzard in 2004.
The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association has not had time to survey local businesses regarding the economic impact of the I-70 closure.
“We got news of some spring-break cancellations” at local lodges, said spokeswoman Kate Collins, but she added that most spring break vacations were booked for later in March, by which time the canyon is expected to be reopened for at least one lane of travel in each direction.
Another difficulty in assessing the effect of the closure on local business, she said, is the fact that current travel habits have people making their vacation reservation much closer to their actual travel dates than used to be the case.
Overall, Collins said of the closure, “I just think this was a little bump in the road, and we will recover.”
The chamber’s big challenge now, she said, will be to get the word out to travelers once the canyon is reopened, “We’re open for business, and people should come on up.”
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Colorado’s Western Slope is considered a climate hot spot where temperatures are increasing faster than the global average. This warming has contributed to more than 20 years of dryness, which scientists are calling a megadrought.