Mesa Verde remains shuttered
No plans in Denver to help Southwest Colorado's premier tourist draw
DENVER - Cash registers are ringing again at Grand Canyon National Park.
The sound of bugling elk is competing against the clicking of tourists' camera shutters at Rocky Mountain National Park.
And despite a federal government shutdown, Utah's national parks are all reopened, from Arches to Zion.
But the ruins at Mesa Verde National Park is as quiet as the day before the Weatherills found them 125 years ago.
And that's how it's going to stay, until Congress ends the partial shutdown of government.
Governors won the right to reopen national parks in their states last week, if they paid for them. Colorado responded by reopening Rocky Mountain National Park, whose gateway community, Estes Park, is struggling to recover from flooding in September.
But the state has no plans to reopen Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes or Black Canyon of the Gunnison national parks, said Gov. John Hickenlooper's spokesman, Eric Brown.
"We are certainly sympathetic to every community impacted by the federal government shutdown. Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park are in a unique situation given the historic flooding last month and limited access to the area," Brown said in an email.
Colorado is paying $40,300 a day to operate Rocky Mountain National Park, using funds from the Colorado Tourism Office. The state will ask the federal government to pay it back once the crisis in Congress passes.
Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, plans to send a letter to Hickenlooper on Wednesday asking him to reopen all of Colorado's national parks.
Coram said he is sympathetic to Estes Park, but it isn't the only town in Colorado with troubles.
"Our communities are affected just as much as them," he said.
Coram's district includes Rocky Mountain and Black Canyon of the Gunnison national parks. Just last week, a bus full of 60 tourists from Japan was turned away from Black Canyon, he said.
The park has minimal facilities, and the canyon can be seen from roadside turnouts. There's absolutely no reason at all in this being closed," he said.
But unless Hickenlooper changes his mind, the fate of Mesa Verde National Park's fall tourism season lies with the U.S. Congress.
"Like everyone, we want the federal government shutdown to end as quickly as possible," Brown said.