Great Sand Dunes National Park starts welcoming guests back


MOSCA, Colo. (KDVR) — Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado’s San Luis Valley started its phased reopening on Wednesday. It was a welcome sight for nearby businesses who rely on traffic from the park.

The first phase of the park’s reopening allows for access to: the main park road, Dunes parking area and dunefield, Medano Pass Primitive Road (including established campsites on a first-come, first-served basis), all trails, all picnic areas and the entrance station (including the collection of fees if authorized).

To help cut down on crowds and to practice social distancing, the visitor center, South Ramada group picnic site in the Mosca Creek Picnic Area, Pinon Flats Campground and overnight backcountry access in the National Park will remain closed or off-limits for the time being.

The park plans to revisit those closures in mid-June.

“Once the folks start coming to play on the dunes, they run by here too,” said Judy Messoline.

Messoline owns and operates the UFO Watchtower in nearby Hooper. She relies heavily on the tourists who visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

“The last couple of years we had like 10,000 people go through here each summer. Now I’m wondering what it’s going to be like this year,” Messoline said.

Since the park had to temporarily close in mid-April, she’s only seen about 2-3 people a day.

“I know a lot of the businesses down in Alamosa – they’ve really been struggling!” Messoline said.

Messoline and many others in the area are happy to see the park’s phased reopening begin.

Welcoming tourists back is like a double-edged sword, she explained. You want them to visit, but you’re also concerned they might have COVID-19.

“We’re just holding a positive thought! What else can you do?” Messoline said.

For more information on the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve’s phased reopening plans, visit its website.

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