GRAND LAKE, Colo. (KDVR) — Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick off to summer and mountain towns across the state saw tons of foot traffic of both locals and those from out of state to come enjoy a mountain escape.
“We opened earlier than normal this year and we are experiencing 32% higher occupancy levels than previous years,” Jacque Raffaele, with the Grand Lake Lodge said.
Raffaele said last year, despite the pandemic they still saw good occupancy rates but after closing for the summer season another challenge came forward with the East Troublesome Fire.
“We thank them everyday for amount of effort that went into saving this lodge,” Raffaele said.
Driving up to the lodge, the damage and burn scars from the fire are very obvious, but luckily the lodge itself went untouched. During the 2020 winter season, the lodge was working on cabins for the winter time to open but it was put on hold because of the fire.
“The risk of losing it I think pushed people to want to come up and see it again,” Raffaele said.
The lodge sits on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park which also has seen an increase in visitors since the pandemic hit. But the park is taking some steps to decrease traffic by implementing a reservation system.
“I think the park has a lot of work to do and they have to protect the rebuilding of the fires. When you start driving through you see how much is damaged you can see why they are taking the steps to protect the regrowth,” Raffaele said.
But not everyone is excited about the reservation system. Some Colorado locals have started a petition to revoke the reservation system.
“People come from all over the world to see the Rocky Mountains and the system punishes those who don’t have access to technology,” Thomas Denning, who is a long-time Estes Park resident said.
Denning said its important for people to be able to use the park because it is the reason many move or visit Colorado.
“We know there was a pandemic and fires but the park is hiding behind that by citing those things as to why they need these restrictions,” Denning said.
Denning stated he’s worried with the new reservation system it will turn visitors away from staying at local mountain towns near the park.
“If you are told you aren’t wanted somewhere do you go there? You do not,” Denning said.