Welcome (everyone) to Colorful Colorado

Column by Andrea W. Doray
Posted 9/3/19

After a long weekend in New Mexico, we were greeted on our state’s southern border by my favorite sign: “Welcome to Colorful Colorado!” Growing up in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado, I …

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Welcome (everyone) to Colorful Colorado

Posted

After a long weekend in New Mexico, we were greeted on our state’s southern border by my favorite sign: “Welcome to Colorful Colorado!”

Growing up in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado, I have always found that these long-familiar words – crisp white painted script emblazoned on dark brown wooden planks – fill me with pride.

Lately, though, I’m left wondering about the “welcome” part.

Earlier this summer I spent a few days in Estes Park with my sister and her husband at their cabin. I was steps away from deer and wild turkeys and bull elk with velveted antlers that settled in the front yard of the cabin for a late afternoon snooze. On another visit, a bald eagle had cruised overhead.

Coming home via the southern canyon through Lyons, I continued to be awed by the wondrous rock formations, the towering ponderosas, the tumbling rivers and streams, the expanses of meadows, so green so early this year.

My wish at that moment was that everyone, at some time, could enjoy such an experience.

And then I saw it … a sticker slapped on an otherwise innocuous road sign, which said: “Texas drivers suck.” I was immediately irked, offended, and not just a little bit outraged.

Only the week before I had followed a car on I-25 sporting a bumper sticker that was a replica of our iconic Colorado green-and-white-mountains license plate. This one said, “No Vacancy.”

C’mon, man … why the rude exclusivity and sense of superiority? Everyone got here somehow, many from other states or other countries. Even if we were born in Colorado, as I was, most of us aren’t the first people to occupy our state, not by a long shot.

Generations ago, families from Mexico settled what would later become southern Colorado – where I grew up – in towns that are now hundreds of years old. And, of course, there are the true native tribes, and before them, the mysterious Anasazi. Yet here we all are.

And, for myself, I say, welcome.

Yes, I know that Colorado’s front range, in particular, is growing rapidly, outpacing our attempts at infrastructure and raising long-term concerns about water. Much of rural Colorado, on the other hand, is dealing with high unemployment and lack of services … the hospital where I was born in Monte Vista has been closed for years.

What’s bringing money into our state that could help with some of these problems? You guessed it: out-of-state visitors.

The Colorado Tourism Office reports that, in 2018, a record 86.2 million travelers spent a record $22.3 billion, up 6.7 percent from 2017. And guess what? The number of domestic tourists increased less than 1 percent. That means most of the money came from somewhere else. (Texas, by the way, is the leading origin state.)

So, thank you, out-of-staters. Thank you for the $1.37 billion in state and local taxes last year. Thank you for the 174,400 jobs you supported in 2018, up nearly 2 percent from 2017.

Thank you, and welcome. Come visit, come stay. Bring your families and your culture and your diversity. Bring your smarts and your skills and your ingenuity. But, most of all, bring your sense of wonder.

Welcome, everyone, to Colorful Colorado.

Andrea Doray is a writer who asks that, if you come to Colorado for the weed, buy lots of it so we can collect even more taxes. Contact Andrea at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

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