RMNP closure hurting Estes Park recovery after flooding

ESTES PARK, Colo. — Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is vowing to do everything he can to save Estes Park from a second economic hit, even if that means staffing part of Rocky Mountain National Park with state employees.

First it was the devastating floods that hit Estes Park and the surrounding roads, but now it’s the government shutdown that threatens to sink some small businesses for good.

Trail Ridge Road through the RNMP is one of the more popular routes to Estes Park. Since the park is closed, Trail Ridge is closed, cutting Estes Park off from the Front Range and tourists.

Wednesday afternoon. Sen. Michael Bennet sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking that Trail Ridge road through the RMNP be reopened.

“Estes Park is in the midst of a massive recovery and rebuilding effort following the historic flooding that Colorado experienced early last month,” Bennet wrote.  “Reopening Trail Ridge Road, if only for a few weeks, would help that effort.”

The governor toured the community Wednesday and promised the mayor and other community leaders that he would speak to his contacts in Washington in order to reopen parts of the National Park that the community depends on for tourism.

Though the governor did spend some of his time in Estes Park touring areas around that were hit hardest by the flood, he said he knows that the government shutdown is also adding to devastation that can’t easily be seen.

Along main street most businesses are back open, some even advertising flood sales, but small business owners tell FOX31 that the customers aren’t coming back because the National Park is still closed due to the shutdown.

The governor spent some time on Main Street talking about that impact, and he says he’s willing to call the White House and other federal agencies to let them know that he’ll dedicate state resources to open parts of the park that are most popular with tourists.

“I have to talk to the department of transportation and I have to talk to the department of public safety, but I know those guys, they work for me, so they kind of have to say yes and they will,” Hickenlooper said. “We don’t have to open the whole park up. We just have to have Trail Ridge Road open.”

The governor says he is unsure whether he’ll be allowed to reopen the park, but he said he’s hopeful that it can be done by this weekend in hopes of attracting some much needed tourism.

Business owners say they’re running out of time. Some are even planning a silent protest at 10 a.m. Thursday morning at the Beaver Point entrance to the National Park.