Number of visitors to park decline

The number of visitors to Dinosaur National Park dropped for the fourth consecutive year, while numbers tracked by the park show a decline of more than 100,000 guests since 1999.

Some 306,923 people visited in 2002, down from last year's 326,922 and 397,801 in 2000, according to park figures.

In 1999, just over 411,000 traveled to the 200,000-plus-acre park between Utah and Colorado.

Fees have not substantially changed over that time period, which has some park officials pointing to the sluggish economy and higher fuel costs for reasons behind the drop.

"People are being more selective about where they're going," said Christy Wright, river operations assistant.

Dinosaur's park superintendent said the declining number of visitors can't be attributed to one particular issue, but said the attention of last summer's fires didn't help.

"(Declining visitor numbers) are not only seen in other regional parks but throughout the entire park system," said Superintendent Chas Cartwright.

"Ultimately, I think we're seeing changing patterns of how people spend their vacations."

Cartwright said a fee increase to be implemented next year at the park is unrelated to the drop in visitor numbers.

Campground fees at both Echo Park and at Gates of Lador will increase by $2. User fees at both campground locations are now $6.

Dinosaur's fee collection committee based the fee increase on a survey of campground fees in other regional parks, Cartwright said.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com.

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