RMNP is on track for record visit year

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Pamela John­son

love­land» Rocky Moun­tain Na­tional Park is on track to set a record for visi­ta­tion this year, a trend that con­tin­ues as pop­u­lar­ity of the park grows.

And next year, while the daily and weekly en­trance fees will re­main the same, the an­nual fee for the park nes­tled just out­side Estes Park is in­creas­ing to $60.

Last year, the park had 4.1 mil­lion visi­tors, the first time it had sur­passed 4 mil­lion.

“As of the end of Novem­ber, we were at 4.4 mil­lion,” said Kyle Pat­ter­son, park spokes­woman. “We should be reach­ing 4.5 (mil­lion) by the end of this year.”

In Novem­ber alone, the num­ber of peo­ple who vis­ited Rocky in­creased 33 per­cent over the pre­vi­ous Novem­ber, likely be­cause of mild weather but also in spite of the main ac­cess road, U.S. 34, be­ing closed be­tween Love­land and Estes Park due to per­ma­nent re­pairs from the 2013 floods.

For the rest of this year, though, the Colorado Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion has lifted that road clo­sure for the hol­i­days, which are a pop­u­lar time for snow ac­tiv­i­ties at the park. The clo­sure and de­tours will re­sume Jan. 3.

And start­ing Jan. 1, the cost of a yearly pass into the park in­creases from $50 to $60, a de­ci­sion that was made in Oct. 2015.

Then, the park cre­ated a new pass that is good for one day at a rate of $20 per ve­hi­cle or $10 per per­son, and al­tered the fees so a seven-day pass costs $30 per au­to­mo­bile, $25 per mo­tor­cy­cle or $15 per per­son. At that time, of­fi­cials an­nounced the an­nual pass in­crease for Jan. 1, 2017.

Ba­sic op­er­a­tions of the na­tional park are funded through the fed­eral bud­get with ap­pro­pri­a­tions from Congress, and most of the fees are spent on other en­hance­ments in the park.

“We are able to keep 80 per­cent of what we col­lect in fees at Rocky Moun­tain Na­tional Park,” Pat­ter­son said. “That was part of a law that went into ef­fect in 1996. They add about $4 mil­lion per year to our bud­get. It’s re­ally sig­nif­i­cant. With our in­creased visi­ta­tion, that will likely go up.”

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