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Summer Tourism offers mixed look

by Jennifer Parker

HUERFANO- Many local businesses thrived this summer while others were down compared to last year; the reason, high gas prices.

     The Mining Museum did very well this year.  Volunteer Margaret Gleisberg estimated around 1,000 visitors since May ­first,   “The number of Colorado visitors was up, but Texas and California visitors were down.  A lot of Coloradans said they are making more day and weekend trips within the state to save on fuel,” reported Gleisberg.  Many people come to the museum knowing some history and wanting to learn more.  There are also a lot of museum buffs who stay for hours.  The museum also offers a kid-friendly atmosphere.  Regardless of the reason for the visit, almost everyone wants to be “locked” in a jail cell and photographed. The museum will close on September 30 for the season.

    Park Ranger Stacey Lewis from Lathrop State Park reported a record setting year.  From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the park was full.  Lewis said there were a lot more tents compared to last year and not a lot of out-of-state license plates.  Although the park’s day pass count is down, the park’s campsites are thriving.   Lewis points to the major improvements to the campground three years ago: electricity, bathroom facilities and paved roads.  A new group campsite was added along the shoreline that provides electricity and easy access to the water.  They also added a new camp store selling ice cream, camping equipment and supplies.

   Perhaps visitors were drawn by animal life.  They may even have heard of the bigger pike in the lakes this year.  Bears were spotted on the south side and one visitor reported a bear swimming.  The park has started boat inspections upon arrival to ensure zebra mussels do not come in.  Zebra mussels are an invasive species.  They steal nutrients from neighboring fish, and they clog waterways.

     The Francisco Fort Museum in La Veta had 1,298 visitors sign the guest book this summer.  Although over half of those people were from the Colorado Springs area, guests also came from 35 other states, the UK, France, Netherlands, and Mexico.

     The La Veta Inn had an even year with their lodging, but the restaurant did much better than last year.  General Manager, Ellen Burris, said they have had a lot more customers from Walsenburg since Aly’s closed down.  Night concerts on the train ride from Alamosa also made for constant booking of the Inn’s rooms, and avid golfers have been taking advantage of special deals.

     Businesses that did not fare so well this summer included many motels.  Best Western, Budget Host, and the Anchor Motel all had a drop from last year’s revenue, which would stand to reason if many people were just out on day trips.  Nevertheless,  Huerfano County continues to attract its share of people who are looking for the outdoor beauty and historic culture that the community has to offer.