Colorado’s Front Range--with Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs being its core municipal components--contains a good two-thirds of the Centennial State’s population. The people of this booming area occupy a precarious space between modern industrialized American life and the imposing high-elevation wild lands of the Rocky Mountains to the west. Each city has its own distinct dominant culture, from Denver’s professionals and unshaven youths, to the college and hippie crowds in Boulder, to the more conservative and technical communities in Colorado Springs, but they all share the commonality of an enviable position on the cusp of the great outdoors.
Denver, Boulder & Colorado Springs Today
Colorado’s major cities retain much of the casual atmosphere that has made them popular through the years, with both tourists and transplants. Many people moved here to flee the pollution, crime, and crowding of the East and West coasts, and some native and long-term Coloradans have begun to complain that these newcomers are bringing with them the very problems they sought to escape.
There is also a growing effort in Colorado to limit, or at least control, tourism. For instance, in 1995, just as the ski season was winding down, town officials in the skier’s mecca of Vail reached an agreement with resort management to limit the number of skiers on the mountain and alleviate other aspects of overcrowding in the village. The word now from Vail and other high-profile Colorado tourist destinations is that visitors will be given incentives, such as discounts, to visit at off-peak times. In 2008, the idea of a toll in the mountains on I-70 surfaced at the Colorado State Capitol. More recent proposals include fees for hiking the state's “fourteeners”--14,000-foot mountains.
Several years ago, Colorado voters approved a measure that effectively eliminated state funding for tourism promotion. That resulted in the creation of the Colorado Tourism Authority, funded by the tourism industry, but debate continues over whether state government should take a more active role. Those in the tourism industry who run small businesses or are located away from the major attractions say they have been hurt by the lack of state promotion, whereas others insist that government assistance for one specific industry is inappropriate and argue that the tourism industry is doing very well on its own--too well, in some areas.
One problem is the increasingly popular Rocky Mountain National Park, which is not only attracting increasing numbers of out-of-state visitors but becoming a popular day trip for residents of the fast-growing Front Range cities of Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Fort Collins. During the summer, park roads are packed and parking lots full to overflowing; in autumn, during the elk-rutting season, hundreds of people make their way to the Moraine Park and Horseshoe Park areas each evening. National park officials say that motor vehicle noise is starting to have a negative effect on the experience, and disappointed visitors are asking where they can go to find serenity. A limited shuttle system has been put into effect in one of the busier areas, and park officials have begun studying ways to expand public transportation in the park, possibly by creating off-premises parking areas where day visitors could leave their vehicles and hop a shuttle.
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