GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – The Grizzly Creek Fire is now at 32,464 acres with 73% containment. While desperately needed rain brings the promise of more containment, heavy rain could mean longer than intermittent closures to the canyon and economic impacts to the town of Glenwood Springs.

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“My hope is that we don’t see a two week-long closure like we did with this fire, but that it’s more like, an afternoon; that it’s more like a Wednesday from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. event that doesn’t impact the community as much,” Jonathan Godes, Mayor of Glenwood Springs.

With so many concerns around debris and rock flow, the U.S. Forest Service notified commercial raft operators Saturday that the Colorado River would be closed for the rest of the year.

While some operators are finding alternatives, it cut the rafting season short for Whitewater Rafting, LLC in Glenwood Springs, which made the decision to close for 2020.

“We only got a 60-day season this year so, you know, we lost 30 days in the beginning and we lost 30 days here in the end. It hurts, but we’re battling through it,” said JC Thompson, Operations Manager for Whitewater Rafting LLC.

(credit: John Brockmeier, Whitewater Rafting)

The company was in the middle of a commercial trip when the fire started on Aug. 10. Raft guides watched the flames grow, but none of them imagined it would cause the end of their season.

“You never thought that would happen. (We) thought, hopefully, maybe we could be back on at some point towards the end. We’re just looking forward to 2021, and just hope everybody’s staying safe out there fighting this fire,” said Thompson.

The Office of Tourism said businesses in Glenwood Springs were just starting to bounce back from restrictions caused by COVID-19.

“Things were rocking and rolling. We were coming back and then when the fire hit, it was like bottom fell out again and so a double whammy,” said Lisa Langer, Director of Tourism Promotion for Glenwood Springs.

Langer knew she had to act and extended the town’s Glenwood Gold campaign through November, which gives visitors money to spend in town for booking a two night stay at participating hotels. With the pandemic followed by the fire, she says it’s an attempt at a second comeback for Glenwood Springs.

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“We really needed to extend in order to remind people that we’re an all-season community, and they can come just about any time to Glenwood Springs to enjoy our hospitality.”

Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon reopened last week following a two-week closure; this combined with the Glenwood Gold campaign, is already making a difference.

“Good news on the hotel front, and some of the attractions have said they are bouncing back. They were really rock bottom,” said Langer.

The town can handle intermittent closures, which happen every year for various reasons, but Langer is hoping people pay Glenwood Springs a visit as often as they can and reminds visitors, it’s a year-round destination.

“We just really hope that people will have it in their heart to come see us and support us in that way,” she said.

Jamie Leary