Growth is Dino-might

Little or no room for Dinosaur visitors

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Tourists passing through Dinosaur have a problem.

There is no place to stay most nights in the town's motels and RV parks because of an influx of energy workers.

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"We tell them to look in Craig, and sometimes that's full up, too," said Cheryl McDonald, manager of the Colorado Welcome Center. "It's busy around here. We're seeing a lot of people coming through, and they want to know where to camp and where to eat."

Oil and gas exploration and drilling, along with a planned outage of the Bonanza Power Plant in Utah that brought in 500 workers, have created a shortage of housing in the small Northwest Colorado town.

"We haven't had a single vacancy since the day we opened," Tammy Warden, owner of the Hi-Vu Motel, said. "From Rock Springs to Craig is full. We could fill two times the motel rooms we have."

Warden and her husband Mike run the six-room motel that has been in the family for years, although they both hold other jobs. Mike is a truck driver, and Tammy works at the hospital in Rangely.

Open from May until the close of hunting season around mid-November, the Hi-Vu will evict their energy patrons in the fall when hunters arrive.

"We have guides that have booked the rooms for a long time. Some have been coming for 30 years," Warden said. "I've got to go with the hunters because they will be here after the boom is gone."

At the Bedrock Depot, owners Leona Hemmerich and Bill Mitchem see the tourists stop to have a sandwich and ice cream, but the normal two- or three-day visits have become a one-time stop.

"There's no place to stay. Tourists are staying one day and they're gone," Hemmerich said. "Fire crews training in the Monument couldn't even find rooms in Craig. They had to camp out."

Summer began the fourth season for the Bedrock Depot. Hemmerich vows to continue serving homemade bread and quality meals, attempting to bring the customers back for return visits.

She is happy for the motels that are filled to capacity, but she would like to see the county commissioners thinking about tourism more.

"The motels are full, but that's short sighted. The commissioners are not looking long term," she said. "Moffat and Uintah counties should make getting the quarry open a higher priority."

The quarry at Dinosaur National Monument has been closed since the building was found to be unsafe last year, with no reopening date scheduled.

The drop in tourism hasn't been felt, however, at the Blue Mountain Village R.V. Park, where owner William Vanderplas is open year-round.

"We have been full for two months. One company wanted to rent the whole park," he said. "They have 350 people coming to put in a pipeline from Jensen (Utah) to Colorado Springs."

Vanderplas said Vernal, Utah, and Rangely motels already are full, so energy workers are buying trailers and tents to live in.

The Bonanza power plant project also sent a lot of business his way.

His neighbor is planning on building 100 houses next to the R.V. Park, and another 15 houses are planned for a neighboring piece of land, Vanderplas said.

"There are no living quarters for the workers, so we get all that action," he said. "I think there is good times now in Dinosaur."

At the Hi-Vu Motel, Tammy Warden said she is following advice handed down to her by her Grandfather Jerl Hurt, the motel's original owner.

"He told me to make hay while the sun shines," she said. "That's what my husband tells me when I whine."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext.207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com

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