ESTES PARK, Colo. (CBS4) – Businesses in the tourist town of Estes Park were relieved to learn Tuesday the federal government is reconsidering an increase in the fee that they say would be devastating to the local economy.
Those businesses rely on visitors shopping while on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park.
“The beauty of Estes Park here is the mountains,” said Charley Dickey, co-owner of Rustic Mountain Charm. “This is the closest, easiest place to go to.”
Dickey and his wife operate a gift and home decoration store that has been around since 2002.
He says 90 to 95 percent of their business is from tourists. As a leader for the Estes Valley Partners for Commerce, Dickey knows other shops and restaurants would be greatly impacted by a proposed price change from $25 per car to $70 for entry into national parks.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that the Department of the Interior was reconsidering that initial change.
Officials in Washington saw a large response from the public that was overwhelming opposed to such a dramatic increase.
“I think that was an extreme decision based on the facts that there is a lot of backlog maintenance that needs to be done,” said Dickey.
He was one of the more than 109,000 comments the department received, explaining that the price difference would turn away too many visitors.
Dickey worried it would keep the national parks from meeting one of their missions: to be open to all Americans.
“It starts to reduce the amount of people that can actually go to the park,” he said. “It kind of separates the people that can afford to and the people that can’t afford to.”
A department spokesman said in a statement that the plan is still being reviewed. The final plan will reflect the public’s suggestions over the original peak-season fee proposal.
“The Secretary [of the Interior] remains laser-focused on rebuilding our park infrastructure and this plan coupled with the bipartisan bill in congress will provide a historic investment,” the statement said.
Dickey agrees there needs to be money raised to address required maintenance for Rocky Mountain National Park, but hopes a balance can be reached to keep the experience affordable for everyone.
He is optimistic about the year ahead as traffic will pick up at his store and in town over the next month.
“I feeling good that they took a step back and they’re going to reconsider their decision,” he said. “Estes Park is open for business right now and we’re a destination in its own right.”