Some fearful “old-guard” folks in Grand Junction are trembling in their boots at the prospect of the Colorado National Monument being upgraded to a national park, but if the experience of Soledad, California is an indicator, national park status confers a significant bump in the local economies of small towns situated near them.
In the year and a half since the Pinnacles National Monument near Soledad, California was designated the nation’s 59th national park in February, 2013, Soledad has seen its sales tax receipts jump 11 percent. Nearby restaurants report that signage posted on the routes to the new national park is bringing in more customers.
Pinnacles National Park has also seen a jump in admission fees over when it was a national monument, and the park’s book store has experienced record sales.
Park designation has brightened the economic outlook for Soledad, which previously struggled with a limited economic base.
Prior to the national park designation, Soledad’s economy was based almost solely on agriculture and the presence of a state prison. The national park designation has opened up a whole new area of clean, sustainable economic productivity for the town.
Now Soledad is gearing up to capitalize even more on the good fortune of having a national park in its back yard. The city is welcoming the diversification of its economic base and all the benefits it confers.
This summer, Soledad will open up a brand new visitor center downtown to enlighten tourists going to the park about other nearby offerings, like wineries, vineyards and specialty restaurants.
Grand Junction is poised to experience the same type of boost to its economic fortune as legislators consider bringing a bill to upgrade the Colorado National Monument to a national park.
Source: KAZU 90.3, June 25, 2014, National Park Status Boosts Tourism and Hopes