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Tourism is a major industry in Colorado, with nearly 78 million visitors spending $19.1 billion in 2015, according to the Colorado Tourism Office.
In the summer, outdoor recreation opportunities draw tourists by the thousands to locations throughout the metro area. This helps generate money for the economies of local cities and counties, as these visitors often patronize restaurants and retail locations near their primary destination.
Consider these major draws, just to name a handful:
In the west metro area, there are Red Rocks, Clear Creek, Green Mountain and Bear Creek Lake.
The north metro area has the outdoor water recreation park Water World.
And the south metro area boasts a trio of popular state parks: Castlewood Canyon, Chatfield and Roxborough.
"It makes sense that people visiting our state want to be outside," said Katie Matthews, communications supervisor with Jeffco Open Space.
Jeffco Open Space covers more than 54,000 acres in Jefferson County and includes 29 regional parks and 236 miles of trail systems. In 2016, an estimated 2.4 million people visited Jeffco Open Space areas.
"We call Jeffco the gateway to the Rockies," Matthews said. "It's really easy for people to get outdoors and have a great experience."
Jeffco: A case in point
With activities like hiking, biking, climbing, fishing, bird watching, horseback riding and camping available in Jeffco parks, Sam Bailey, president and CEO of the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation, said it's easy to see the outdoor recreation community in full swing.
"The density you'll feel definitely goes up in the summertime with people utilizing outdoor recreation and cultural amenities," Bailey said.
The world-renowned concert venue Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, just outside Golden, is also a big draw for tourism in Jeffco, Bailey said. "Red Rocks and the concert series that goes on there arguably pull a lot of activity and spending into the county for people coming in to see a concert."
The amphitheater not only hosts large concerts, but in the summer it is also home to several specialty events, including Yoga on the Rocks and Film on the Rocks.
The music venue is also surrounded by 738 acres of Red Rocks Mountain Park, which includes hiking and biking trails along with geological wonders. The park is one of more than 10 mountain parks run by the City of Denver.
With visitors from both in state and out of state, Bailey said that Jefferson County sees tourism dollars in a myriad of ways, including lodging, foods and gas.
Tourist dollars not only help the local economy, Matthews said, it also helps maintain the open space parks because a half-cent sales tax goes back to Jeffco Open Space.
"Anybody spending money in the county is contributing to conserve land for generations to come," Matthews said.
The great outdoors
Outdoor recreation companies also see a spike in business in the summer months.
One company that does all its business during summer is Colorado Watersports, a water sport rental company located on the shore of Roxbourough Bay on Chatfield Reservoir inside the state park just southwest of Littleton.
Boating is among the park's most popular activities and the reservoir can be quite busy during the summer season, which runs May to September.
Getting people on the water is Colorado Watersports sole purpose.
"Our clientele is anybody who wants to get outside," said Audra Tromly, summer camp director at Colorado Watersports, which is run by its parent company Victoria Sailing School.
Colorado Watersports opened last year with rentals of stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, sailboats and corcls - a popular new round boat for kids.
This year, the company hopes to quadruple last year's rentals, Tromly siad. "The ultimate goal is that all our equipment is out on the water."
In Castle Rock, Philip S. Miller Park is becoming a draw for not only Castle Rock residents but also out-of-towners. The 320-acre park boasts 7.4 miles of native-surface trail networks and a 200-step challenge hill.
The park, which is run by the city, is also home to privately operated Castle Rock Zip Line Tours - a zip line course with 10 lines stretched throughout the park's ridgelines - and the privately operated Epic Adventure Tower, which allows users to scale a 40-foot climbing wall, zip and jump from a 40-foot platform or choose to free fall from a 70-foot platform.
The addition of the 2,000-seat amphitheater last year is starting to attract bigger national acts in its second season of summer concerts. For example, multi-platinum country duo Thompson Square will perform at the amphitheater on June 10.
'Busy all day long'
For Jean Gordon, director of the Arvada Visitors Center, celebrating classic outdoor recreation activities is a great way to bring vibrancy to a city.
"Residents patronize the business, but when you're a tourist, you need to be busy all day long," Gordon said. "That is valuable revenue for any city."
One way that the city of Arvada capitalizes on those tourism dollars is by hosting large events. The city hosts a springtime kite festival, but also an event called Sand in the City - a beach party featuring large sand sculptures at Ralston Park.
The event draws 40 percent of its visitors from out of town, Gordon said. And with 6,000 people visiting Arvada each summer, the city needs to capitalize on that influx.
"We hope that they drive through the town and check something else out, too," Gordon said. "We want to ensure that we're putting these businesses in the forefront, that the hotel is filled, and that these small businesses are seeing new faces."
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