Officials unsure of Olympic traveler impact

With one of two westward travel routes passing through Craig, visitor numbers remain in question

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In two weeks, all eyes from around the world will be focused on a city just five hours away.

How and if the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah will affect everyday life in Moffat County, no one is for sure.

Although Highway 40 is a likely route for many travelers on their way to the Games, several local people said it is impossible to predict how many, if any, will pass through the heart of Craig.

Darshann Ruckman, senior sales manager at the Holiday Inn of Craig, said so far the hotel has not seen an increase in February reservations.

"We've had very little to no pick-up," she said. "But that's not saying we're not going to see any. Personally, I think Craig will see some."

Because Craig is a halfway point between Denver and Salt Lake City, Ruckman said Craig might be a possible stopping point for some.

Cathy Vanatta, director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, said because an event with the magnitude of the Olympics has never taken place at a location so close, it is impossible to predict how and if Craig will see any changes, or reap any benefits.

People are lodging in Vernal, Utah, she said, which is two hours away.

If lodging was to fill up there, a trickle-down to Craig might be a possibility.

The Chamber of Commerce will concentrate on making sure a sufficient amount of information and brochures about the community will be available for people who travel through.

"The problem is we just don't know how many people will be passing through Craig," she said. "We've never dealt with something like this before. We'd hate to plan huge events and not have people come through."

Nadine Daszkiewicz, owner of The Kitchen Shop and president of Craig's Downtown Business Association, said the idea of trying to attract people to downtown Craig has been discussed at meetings, but no definite plans have been made.

"Nobody seems to know how to approach it," she said. "We talked about putting a sign three or four blocks east of Yampa on Victory Way."

The Downtown Business Association is open to any suggestions people might have, she said.

Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said local law enforcement is expecting an influx of travelers passing through the community, but has no special plans to increase manpower during that time.

The Yampa Valley Regional Airport and Hertz Rent A Car did not report an increase in February reservations.

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