President Trump's proposed cuts to Dept. of Interior could impact Estes Park economy

Posted at 6:56 PM, Apr 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-05 21:33:16-04

ESTES PARK, Colo. -- It’s not uncommon to have the streets of Estes Park flooded with tourists from around the world.

Many of them are flocking for local fare and to visit the iconic Rocky Mountain National Park, something a record number of them did in 2016.

But, if President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts of $1.5 billion to the U.S. Department of the Interior and National Parks is voted through, some in spots that line the park are concerned about the local economies there.

“For over 100 years the Estes Park economy has really relied on tourism trade and tourism traffic in Estes Park, so of course it concerns us,” said Estes Park Mayor Todd Jirsa. “We are really the stewards of these special places and these kinds of budget cuts or proposed budget cuts, it makes it that much more difficult for us to preserve these places in our country.”

How those cuts would be felt within the park aren’t up to speculation for park officials. 

Tourists spent about $268 million with a total output of $408 million to towns and cities around the park in 2015, said Rocky Mountain National Park spokesperson Kyle Patterson.

Estes Park has a general fund budget of $15 million, with 60 percent of the town’s revenue coming from sales tax dollars. That’s something that could slow if this proposed budget is approved, according to Jirsa. 

"We’ll start to notice it probably in a drop off in tourism I would think; we pride ourselves on providing great service to our tourists and it gets harder and harder with less money,” he said. “It’s all about setting priorities and I think at least, for this community and our national parks system, it’s important that we set these priorities a little higher for these special places.”

While Colorado has several other national parks, Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding areas could see the biggest impact from any proposed budget cuts because of the amount of visitors that pass through the front gates every year.

Those cuts could just mean fewer services for the guests the park does see.

“We still have a hiring freeze in place for hiring permanent positions here, so we’re down in staffing right now,” said Patterson. “We would always be concerned about what kind of services we could provide to the level of visitors that we’re seeing, so that will always be something that we’re mindful of and need to address the best we can.”

Denver7 spoke with visitors in the park who don’t agree with any proposed cuts to our national parks.

“I think it's terrible that we have an administration who puts less thought into essentially what belongs to us the American people and it's completely irresponsible,” said Katie Bentley, who’s visiting from Georgia.

The idea isn’t going over well with others in Estes Park with whom Denver7 spoke.

“Anger is mild and generous, ridiculous and really at some level really stupid, I mean you see the number of people visiting our parks now, I mean we need some help,” said Alice Schwartz. “We’re delighted to have all of the visitors but we really do need help and it is such a desecration of really what’s a precious resource.”


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