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Ouray Needs More Tourists To Stay On The Road To Recovery

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Ouray (credit: CBS)

Ouray (credit: CBS)

OURAY, Colo. (CBS4) – After declaring an economic disaster leaders in one Colorado town are saying they’re on the road to recovery, as long as tourists keep visiting.

Ouray is located to the north of what’s known as the “Million Dollar Highway.”

The problem started with a bunch of boulders. It was back in January when a massive rock slide came crashing down onto Highway 550. With warmer weather Colorado Department of Transportation crews are working, but the highway is closed for about 9 hours a day, and that’s hurting the economies of two Colorado towns.

“We had enough businesses saying, ‘We need help,’ ” Ouray Mayor Pam Larson said.

The nearly 4-week closure of Highway 550 over the winter was tough for businesses along Ouray’s Main Street, but as spring arrived, business didn’t.

“They’re probably making a 1/10th of what they normally do, and that for them was very significant,” Larson said. “The pool has been down, oh, maybe 20 percent.”

An emergency declaration last week opened up loans for small businesses.

“It’s made a tremendous difference. It’s a difference in whether a business who buys all their merchandise this time of year can actually sustain between now and when they actually get their income,” Larson said.

There’s a near constant barrage of rocks that pour down hundreds of feet along the side of the mountain and crash into the roadway.

“Tight now we’re in Phase 2 of this project where we’re doing more scaling, laying down mats on the slope, and hopefully we can take down our temporary fence in the highway by the first part of June,” Vance Kelso with CDOT said.

The road will be open four days over the upcoming holiday weekend and the hope is for two lanes of traffic to be flowing in the middle of June. Larson says she hopes that means people will keep filling the town after that.

“I want them to know Ouray is open,” she said.

Larson said she’s had a number of conversations with people in Silverton who have the same problem.

The road will be open the entire Memorial Day weekend and there will be just about 2 weeks of work following that.

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