ESTES PARK, Colo. (CBS4) – One year after flood waters ripped through Estes Park, a mountain town that relies intensely on tourism, visitors are bustling through the area again.
Estes Park is popular with tourists, especially in the fall, because of its main-street shops, changing leaves and elk populations.
Flood waters and heavy rain washed away the most direct route, Highway 34, into town last September.
But while nearly all the businesses damaged by the floods have reopened — and tourists are shopping — that economic boon hasn’t extended to inns and hotels, says one owner.
“But they didn’t stay and for those of us, particularly small lodges, it’s important to have people come and spend the night,” Roger Steers, the innkeeper at Anniversary Inn Bed and Breakfast, said.
Fewer visitors to Estes Park are booking overnight stays.
“It’s still a little slower than we would like,” Steers said. “It’s not a normal year at all, so we’re below where we need to be for our overall revenue.”
When rivers swelled at the town’s center, stores flooded, and damage kept visitors from getting to the mountain town.
“We lost out on all revenues for a couple of months,” Craig Brusegaard, a manager at an Estes Park store, said.
Volunteers helped owners rebuild, and the federally-run Small Business Administration approved 70 loans for local businesses. That totaled more than $5 million in emergency funding that Steers says his business could not have survived without.
“The loan helped us resolve to stay in business,” he said.
One year later, Steers says reservations are on the rise — an encouraging sign for people still recovering from disaster.
On Friday, Estes Park is hosting a flood remembrance event, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the fairgrounds, with music, food and a live auction. All of the money raised goes toward to aid Glen Haven — a nearby town that was also hit hard.
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