Trapping tourists

Official: Dinosaur can do better

Colorado's richest visitors drive through Dinosaur.

Every 2.2 visitors who stop in the Colorado Welcome Center in Dinosaur have spent $1,000 while in the state, according to a recently compiled survey of Welcome Center visitors.

That amount is $150 more than the runner-up Welcome Center in Fort Collins, said Leona Hemmerich, manager of the Welcome Center in Dinosaur.

In 2004, 26,000 people visited the Welcome Center. Nineteen percent of the visitors made more than $100,000 annually.

"So there's money with these visitors to be tapped, it just needs to be captured," Hemmerich said.

But many people passing through the Dinosaur area never stop in the town or visit any place in Dinosaur National Monument other than the quarry in Utah, Hemmerich said.

Two things need to happen to change that, she said. The monument needs to become a national park, and the town needs to be cleaned up.

Lisa Taunton of the Colorado Center for Community Development completed an analysis on the feasibility of Dinosaur supporting a van tour.

"In order for the area to be more aesthetically pleasing so tourists will stop, there need to be some substantial changes. Dinosaur will have to take pride in their town and make strides toward the clean up of all facets of it," Taunton wrote in her analysis.

"There have been individual efforts to change the look of the area along (U.S.) Highway 40, which have certainly made those places appealing to the eye and entice travelers off the highway. The community needs to look closely at itself and realize what it could be and formulate plans to beautify and highlight the assets of the community," she wrote.

One example of the problem can be found to the immediate east of the welcome center, Hemmerich complained during a Moffat County commissioner meeting Tuesday. Lots owned by Moffat County have been littered with garbage.

"If it belongs to Moffat County, then we ought to do something to improve the Welcome Center," Commissioner Saed Tayyara said.

The county also owns the Wel-come Center.

Hemmerich encouraged the commissioners to lobby to get the monument designated as a national park.

The monument has the acreage to receive a national park designation, she said, and that designation would attract more visitors.

Although the monument is one of the most geologically diverse places in the country, guidebook authors routinely ignore it because it isn't a park, she said.

"We would get more visitation if you guys could work with Utah and the federal government to make it a park," Hemmerich said.

About 10 years ago, the commissioners said, the federal government considered expanding the monument and designating it a park. But the effort failed.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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