Ridgway Visitor Center Closed For 2020
The board and staff of the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce (RACC), which operates the Visitor Center, will be working with the Town of Ridgway and Ridgway Railroad Museum to ensure information resources are available. Changes to the outside of the Visitor Center will include a dispenser for the 2020 Ouray-Ridgway Visitor Guide and a poster with website information and a QR code that will send mobile phone users to RidgwayColorado.com.
The safety of volunteers and visitors to Ridgway is the number one priority of the RACC Board of Directors, who unanimously voted at their May 18 meeting to close the Visitor Center. The board had a long discussion, weighing many options, before finally coming to their decision.
Visitor Center Volunteer Coordinator Jeanne Robertson asked volunteers if they are able to work if the center opens up this season, and the majority replied negatively due to safety concerns. Most volunteers are in the vulnerable age demographic, considered at high risk for COVID-19. These are dedicated, mostly long-term volunteers, so they did not make their responses lightly.
The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) closed their state Welcome Centers until further notice, and issued suggested guidelines for visitor center openings. Those guidelines include: sanitizing high-touch surfaces every 30 minutes, deep cleaning the center two times per shift, installation of plexi-glass at the front desk, collecting all physical materials for visitors, and limiting visitors into the center (see link for guidelines below).
The RACC board realized it was too much to ask a decreased pool of volunteers to complete all suggestions in the guidelines, and does not have sufficient funding in its budget to hire additional cleaning staff for the increased needs. The chamber is also on a severely restricted budget due to the loss of lodging occupancy tax revenues from mid-March to mid-May, and expects reduced revenues throughout 2020.
The Town of Ridgway will be making improvements to the property around the Visitor Center, funded by a $5,000 CTO grant with a $1,250 town match. Improvements include removing the shed and old signage, grading the site, adding gravel, and installing picnic tables. The town and chamber have a long-term plan for other updates and renovations of the center and Heritage Park on the corner of Highways 550 and 62, based on designs created in 2019 from a previous CTO grant.