Caverns plans employee housing in addition to new attractions | PostIndependent.com
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Caverns plans employee housing in addition to new attractions

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park plans to create on-mountain employee housing for seasonal workers as it continues to expand the attractions it offers visitors.Garfield County commissioners on Monday approved Glenwood Caverns’ plans to open features such as a butterfly exhibit, maze and 32-seat theater next year, along with 20 dorm-style housing units that would hold two people apiece.This summer, Glenwood Caverns brought in about 40 college students from countries such as Romania, Russia, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan under a J-1 visa program to help deal with a worker shortage. Now company owner Steve Beckley wants to help such students with accommodations in the future.”We’re looking at doing some very simple employee housing for the summer months,” he told county commissioners Monday.He said the housing would be located away from Glenwood Caverns attractions, in the direction of the communications towers on top of Iron Mountain.While the idea passed muster with the county Monday, Beckley also expects to discuss the issue with the city of Glenwood Springs as part of a review of the city’s existing special use permit for Glenwood Caverns. Although Glenwood Caverns is located outside city limits, it has a preannexation agreement with the city, which provides water and sanitation services to the facility.In a letter to the county, A’Lissa Gerum, a city planner, raised concerns about the housing related to the wildfire danger at the site and lack of availability of parking for employees at the base of the tramway that serves the caverns from town.”From a practical standpoint, we understand the need for employee housing in the community and we commend the applicant’s efforts to attempt to remedy this situation. However, we question whether the top of Iron Mountain is a good location for it,” Gerum wrote.Beckley told county commissioners that none of the student workers has vehicles.”We buy them bikes. We go to garage sales and we bought 40 bikes this year, and that’s what we’ve been passing out to them,” he said.Beckley plans to address fire protection by adding storage tanks holding a total of 35,000 gallons of water. Glenwood Caverns also has created a new fire evacuation plan that involves getting people from its entire property into its caves. That plan allows the facility to protect 1,551 people, which the county has set as the maximum capacity at the park.Gerum also raised concerns about how visible some of Glenwood Caverns’ new additions might be from town. That concern was shared Monday by County Commissioner Trési Houpt, especially as it pertained to a planned “canopy tour” that will involve traveling via rope between towers set among trees.”I notice certain things have worked better than others in terms of being camouflaged on that mountain,” Houpt said.Beckley said the canopy tour shouldn’t be visible because it will be in the trees, not above them.Glenwood Caverns began offering cave tours in 1999 and opened the tramway, mountaintop restaurant and gift shop in 2003. That caused annual attendance to immediately jump from about 38,000 to around 120,000, and it remains roughly that today, Beckley said.”As we grew we had to find other activities for people,” he said.In 2005 it added an alpine coaster, giant swing, climbing wall and zip line. This year it began offering mobile attractions such as a seasonal petting zoo, Bungee trampoline, small train and old-West wagon simulation.Beckley said the butterfly exhibits would be housed in small geodesic domes. The theater would offer “4D” movies that make use of three-dimensional glasses along with wind and water effects.Glenwood Caverns also plans to add a “foam factory” where kids can shoot foam balls at each other.Some of Glenwood Caverns’ other plans for 2008 are to open a mini-golf course, candy shop and old-time photo shop. Also, it may begin hosting temporary traveling museum exhibits in a rarely used banquet facility.Glenwood Cavern also plans to begin providing more regular van service up Transfer Trail to its facility. While most customers are supposed to use the tramway, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management lets it run up to 30 guest trips up the road per day, to cover situations such as emergencies and service to the disabled. Under the approval by the county, those exceptions would be expanded to include people scared of using the tramway.Beckley explained, “We get people that say, ‘I’d love to come up but my grandmother is afraid of heights.'”Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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