Fruita’s tourist season gets early boost from warm weather
Free Press Correspondent
A mild winter meant an early tourist season for Fruita in 2015. Tourists are coming to bike area trails, tour Colorado National Monument and local wineries, and take advantage of scenic camping. Small businesses benefit from their patronage, especially in the spring and fall months due to the temperate climate.
Pablo Snazzy, of Over the Edge Sports in Fruita, said the bike shop is known worldwide and has been featured in magazines such as Sunset, Bike, and Mountain Flyer, as well as publications in countries like Croatia and New Zealand. Travelers from Japan, South America and Europe visit to experience the diverse trails offered in Fruita.
“We’re kind of an unofficial chamber of commerce,” Snazzy said of Over The Edge Sports. “People ask where to eat, sleep, shower, have a beer and ride, and we know where to send them.”
Snazzy said business usually picks up in March, but the unusually warm February kickstarted an early season. Cars adorned with bike racks continue to pour into town.
“We’re a weather-dependent business, for sure,” he explained, with spring and fall being peak season for Fruita and surrounding areas.
According to Snazzy, during summer months bikers usually head to Colorado’s Front Range instead of the Grand Valley to beat the heat; but they come back in the fall for at least “one last hoorah” before snow falls.
WHERE DO TOURISTS STAY?
Fruita has limited hotels available for lodging during its peak season in spring and fall, thus vacation rental properties for large groups have gained popularity. Fruita Crash Pad, a business focused on renting single-family homes throughout the valley, is often used. Hotels available to travelers in Fruita include Comfort Inn, Super 8 Fruita and La Quinta Inn & Suites Fruita.
Campgrounds host many tourists as well, and although they aren’t paying a lodging tax, they still spend money in town. To host more campers, Bureau of Land Management recently expanded its North Fruita Desert campground to 55 sites from 35. These overnight camping spots feature access to vault toilets, designated barbecues and picnic tables.
According to Hillary Huff, a park ranger, James M. Robb Colorado River State Park’s campground is already busy, quickly selling out weekend slots. Huff said she often points visitors to visit local hot spots to ensure tourism dollars stay in town.
“We get a mixed bag of tourists here — mountain and dirt bikers, people going out to hike or visit family,” she said.
Tony Martell of Woodland Park, Colo., visits James M. Robb park every year.
“Usually we just make a quick stop here on our way to Nevada,” Martell said. “I jog around the lake with the dog and we leave. This time we’re camping. It’s been nice.”
THE VALUE OF TOURISM
According to Mike Bennett, Fruita’s city manager, April through June 2014 brought in $421,998 in sales tax revenue.
“We view tourism, economic development and residential opportunity in the same vein,” he explained. “Fruita is a community of choice. People choose to live here because they want to. People choose to play here because they want to. The community benefits from the revenue generated.”
To reach more potential visitors, the City of Fruita also plans to grow its social media outreach.
“Social media is a big part of our marketing efforts,” Bennett said. “Through social media, a bigger and better picture is painted of all the activities to experience in Fruita.”
Over the Edge is currently preparing for its annual Fruita Fat Tire Festival, happening April 23-26 in downtown Fruita. The popular event offers food, vendors, live music, plus bike demos and clinics.
Bennett noted that he’s exploring how city officials can better welcome industry vendors to Fruita during the Fat Tire Festival. His aim is to show bike-related businesses that Fruita is an outdoor mecca “ripe to be the home base for product launches” and new business ventures.
Free Press reporter Brittany Markert and Caitlin Row, editor, contributed to this article.
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The BLM will conduct an environmental assessment of the proposed wells needed to begin the NEPA process on the larger quarry expansion.