City opens expanded trail system after two years of work

An aerial view of the Connect Initiative Recreation Trail, a 2.5 mile trail expansion recently completed in town.

Montrose’s local tourism industry has taken a hit amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but remains optimistic that it will bounce back quickly after the situation has passed. Measures and adjustments are being made to keep businesses afloat and help the community get through.

Since the start of the pandemic, outside tourism in the community has plummeted. Montrose has not taken any official action to close county lines or the airport, but people have taken it upon themselves to avoid travel.

“No one is making that order in Montrose, but it is the way the public is behaving,” said Chelsea Rosty, City of Montrose director of business innovation and tourism. “And rightfully so, as people are being asked to stay home.”

March and April are typically a slow season for local tourism, so Rosty hopes that by the time high season rolls around in late May, the industry will have bounced back enough to welcome both travelers and locals.

“It’s an impact that we can’t deny, but it’s our hope that everyone can hang on long enough to get to the other side of it,” Rosty said. “If we’re able to keep this virus contained, and that’s done by everyone doing their part, then maybe we can jump right back into it.”

Although tourism is a large part of the Montrose economy, the city has recently been focusing on diversifying the economy in order to reduce reliance on particular industries.

“We’re very fortunate that we’re not like resort communities where we do rely so heavily on [tourism],” Rosty said. “It’s a blow to our economy, but it’s not the whole thing. ...The economy is on the shoulders of those of us who can still support it, and we’re trying to remain positive that this is temporary.”

Montrose continues to facilitate adjustments for businesses in order to help the economy through the pandemic. With the recent Declaration of Local Disaster Emergency, the city has been able to shift tourism promotion funds into supporting local businesses and focusing internally on the community.

In addition, the city is implementing programs that encourage the community to interact with one another, stimulate the economy and stay active while remaining safe amid the pandemic. Rosty encouraged the community to participate in #WeAreOpenMontrose on social media: on Fridays, residents can post photos of ordering takeout or delivery from local restaurants, and on Saturdays, residents are encouraged to post photos of purchases made from local small businesses via curbside pickup or online.

Rosty emphasized that although there has been a decrease in tourists from outside the area, many outdoor recreation opportunities are still available to the local community. Some gyms that have closed their doors are offering outdoor classes with safe spacing between each participant. Black Canyon National Park also remains open (with the visitor center closed for safety), along with the city’s Connect Trail, parks and other outdoor recreational opportunities.

“We wouldn’t want to keep people from going outdoors,” Rosty said. “People can bike and walk and run and still be adequately socially distanced from one another. We’re encouraging people to just be outside, it’s important in these times to get sunlight and be outside.”

As the situation continues to develop, Rosty said the community must stay connected and work together to support both the economy and each other.

“I think it’s important for everyone to know that we’re all in this,” Rosty said. “There isn’t a single life not affected by this right now, and that means we can all come together and be the light for one another in this difficult time.”

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