Heard named GM for Caverns Adventure Park
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park has promoted Nancy Heard to serve as general manager in charge of day-to-day operations at the popular theme park on Iron Mountain, while owner Steve Beckley steps aside to concentrate on his latest plans to develop the historic Iron Springs property along the Colorado River.
“I’m an entrepreneur at heart,” said Beckley, who with his wife, Jeanne Beckley, began offering tours of the Fairy Caves in 1999 and have expanded the park over the years to include 15 attractions including amusement park rides. The park now draws more than 150,000 visitors a year.
“Nancy has been improving the overall operations, efficiency and safety of the park since she joined us in 2008,” Beckley said in a news release announcing Heard’s new position.
“Promoting her to general manager enables me to spend more time doing what I love, which is envisioning the future of the business and coming up with the plans to turn that vision into reality,” he said.
The Beckleys, along with Coop and Mogli Cooper, recently purchased the 13-acre former Iron Springs Spa property west of Two Rivers Park and are working on plans to redevelop the natural hot springs into a series of five pools for soaking, including a 40-by-60-foot family pool and accompanying admissions building and changing rooms.
Glenwood Springs City Council has already given a conceptual nod of approval to the plans. The formal development proposal is scheduled before the Glenwood Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday, and is expected to come before City Council for final consideration Oct. 16.
Prior to joining the Adventure Park, Heard spent 16 years with the Aspen Skiing Co., serving as the lift operations manager at Snowmass and general manager of the mountain photo division.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from St. Mary’s College in Orchard Lake, Michigan, and a master of business administration from the University of Colorado at Denver.
“I am both humbled and excited that Steve and Jeanne trust me to lead the company,” Heard said of her new role. “This is my dream job. I consider it an honor and a privilege to carry on their values and their mission of making people smile.”
Heard is also an instructor and senior ride inspector with the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials (NAARSO). She’s one of just a handful of women in the U.S. to have achieved level III certification, the highest level offered by NAARSO.
In addition to Heard’s appointment, four supervisors are also being promoted to managers as part of the reorganization:
• Mark Francis, who joined the staff as a cave tour guide in 2013 and has served as photographer supervisor this year, will be the new photography manager.
• James McGoodwin, who was an intern at the park in 2011 and started full-time as attractions supervisor in 2012, has been named attractions manager.
• Kathy Miller, who joined the park as a cave tour guide in 2006, will be the new natural attractions manager.
• Laura VanLue, who has been part of the park’s retail operations since 2007, is the new retail manager.
Beckley will continue to oversee the park’s operations, but is handing the daily responsibilities to Heard, including implementation of the new Winter on the Mountain program.
Work on that $500,000 project is already under way, Beckley said, including installation of 35 miles of holiday theme lights throughout the park, including on the Alpine Coaster and the Soaring Eagle Zip Line ride to allow for night riding during the upcoming winter months.
The park also have a 30-foot tall animated Christmas tree, holiday lighting as part of the cave tours, fire pits for sitting around on a cold day or night, a special film feature in the movie theater and a family-style dinner menu, Beckley said. Opening of the new winter-theme attractions is slated for early November.
The idea is to offer something new during the cooler shoulder-season months when Glenwood Springs lodging occupancy rates are generally the lowest.
Last November, Glenwood hotel and motel rooms that are included in the Rocky Mountain Lodging Report were only about 39 percent occupied on average throughout the month, noted Beckley, who also sits on the city’s Tourism Promotion Board.
December 2013 occupancy was a little over 42 percent, while overnight stays usually pick up during the ski season in January, February and March, he said.
On the long-range planning front, in addition to the Iron Springs development, Beckley also continues to develop plans for a hotel, mining museum and optional cog-rail access up to the Caverns from the former limestone quarry property adjacent to Traver Trail.
“It’s still in the works, but our main focus right now is on the hot springs development,” he said.
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