Outdoor recreational opportunities are becoming somewhat limited as a result of poor air quality and public land closures in Southwest Colorado.
The U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday closed the San Juan National Forest, and the city of Durango closed trails and open spaces, including Animas City Mountain, Carbon Junction, Dalla Mountain Park, Horse Gulch and Overend Mountain Park.
This is the first time in history the San Juan National Forest has closed to the public.
Businesses that sell outdoor equipment are nervous a prolonged land closure could hurt future sales.
Pine Needle Mountaineering expects business will slow as a result of the San Juan National Forest closing.
“So far, it’s holding steady, but I don’t expect that to last long,” said owner Jeremy Dakan.
Access to the Hermosa Creek watershed and the Colorado Trail became limited last week with the 416 and Burro fires.
Dakan said forest closures are the right thing to do to prevent more fires.
Closures have affected 2nd Ave Sports across all aspects of its business, said manager Asa Robbins.
Bike rentals and sales are down, and Robbins said the problem could be compounded with the city’s decisions to close open spaces, which are home to dozens of trails. With the closures, there is almost nowhere in Durango for customers to ride mountain bikes, he said.
Not many people want to go for a run in the smoky air, which has affected shopping at Durango Running Co., said employee Joey Schricte.
Business tends to be slower in the morning when the air is filled with smoke, but by afternoon when the haze has cleared, shoppers come out in a buying mood, he said.
Not all businesses are taking a hit from poor air quality and public land closures.
Air quality in and around Durango has been rated at the “hazardous” level at night and in the morning. Because of this, some people are opting to go inside for their workout.
The Durango Sports Club has seen more patrons in the morning, said owner Will Thomas.
The Durango Community Recreation Center has also seen an uptick in business.
Outdoor recreation in Colorado provides for $28 billion in consumer spending, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.
Opportunities to recreate in mountain and desert environments draw visitors to Durango, so the local tourism office will have to change its messaging, said Executive Director Frank Lockwood.
The Durango Area Tourism Office is encouraging visitors to partake in alternative activities that are not impacted by fire and smoke.