While many businesses are struggling to get people through their doors, the Colorado National Monument is feeling the exact opposite these days. Officials say more people are visiting the park than ever before.
Tuesday, the Bradley family made their first ever trek to the Colorado National Monument. The crew from Iowa says it initially came to the Grand Valley to check out its dinosaur lands -- but the big, red rocks caught their attention.
"Saw this and didn't even know this was here," said David Bradley. "So we came up here to see what it was like."
And while that's the reaction park staff says it's come to expect for years --
"We think the monument is a hidden treasure, that once people discover it, they're like wow, I had no idea it was here," said Joan Anzelmo, Superintendent of the Colorado National Monument.
-- It appears that it's hidden no more. Park officials say in June, 100,000 visitors came through the red rocks of the Monument. That's a 21 percent increase over last year.
"We've been seeing record numbers on successive weeks and weekends," said Anzelmo.
On the 4th of July alone, they say 7,000 visitors came to the park -- many to watch the annual climb to the top of Independence Monument.
"We think that this was one of our busiest July 4ths in recent memory," said Anzelmo.
Park officials say there's several reasons they believe they're seeing this kind of a spike. First, they say improved park promotion across the state and country has given them a boost.
"Everyone is working to help the public and long distance visitors understand that it's definitely worth taking a stop off of I-70 and coming into the Monument," said Anzelmo.
They say the "staycation" mindset hasn't hurt either -- especially when you consider the relatively cheap costs of visiting the park and camping there.
"A lot of Coloradans are staying closer to home, so we're seeing a lot of visitors from the State of Colorado and even in our own backyard," said Anzelmo.
And while the monument is a little further from the Bradleys' backyard, they say it's no wonder so many people from near and far are visiting it.
"I feel like I'm kind of free from all the stresses that I've got in my life," said Brianne Bradley. "It's like you come out here and you're free."
Park officials say they expect to see attendance numbers increase as it gets closer to Monument's 100th anniversary in 2011.
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