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North Fork Valley tourism business dealing with US 50 highway closure

ZenZen Gardens in Paonia, Colorado
ZenZen Gardens/Facebook
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KVNF
ZenZen Gardens in Paonia, Colorado

Cindie Sorensen, owner of Zenzen Gardens, in Paonia is experiencing deja vu coming off last year’s closure of CO Highway 133 that cut off tourism traffic from Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

Now she and numerous businesses in the North Fork Valley in Delta County are facing the closure of US 50, the highway between Gunnison and Montrose, often used by tourists traveling west to a number of Western Slope destinations including the Zenzen Gardens.

Unfortunately, travelers on US 50 are unable to take the CO Highway 92, a 73 mile state highway that runs between Sapinero and Hotchkiss. Highway 92 has been used as a detour during construction work in the Little Blue Creek Canyon area on US 50 for the past several summer seasons. Travels were able to Highway 92 and then back to Highway 133 to Paonia.

Now travel from Gunnison to Montrose has been rerouted to I-70 in the North or US 160 to the south. Those detours add on 6 to 7 hours of travel time. There is the Lake City cut off in Gunnison County, however that route is designated for local traffic and doesn’t allow for vehicles over 16,000 pounds OR trailers of any kind.

While Sorensen’s venue that hosts weddings, special events, vacation rentals and music concerts is feeling the economic sting, she says not the only business affected. Retail businesses, grocery stores, entertainment venues and others are feeling the impacts.

Travelers aren’t the only ones facing frustrating detours, Sorensen says her time has also been rerouted to deal with refunding cancellations, changing marketing plans and flat out wondering what the future holds.

Businesses in the North Fork Valley are hoping that Kebler Pass, a high mountain gravel road which connects Crested Butte with Paonia, will open ahead of schedule. Gunnison County crews are working on the pass.

With tourists making plans to go somewhere else this summer season to avoid the long detour, Sorensen is reaching out to locals in the community hoping they will decide to stay a bit closer to home and help out their neighbors.

Lisa was born in Texas but grew up on a small farm in Olathe, Colorado and considers herself a “Colorado native after six years of age.” Lisa has seven years experience in media, beginning as a News Director for a small radio station on the Eastern Plains. Following her initial radio career, Lisa worked as a staff reporter for The Journal Advocate in Sterling, Colorado and most recently as a staff reporter for the Delta County Independent. Lisa is thrilled to join the award-winning News and Public Affairs team at KVNF.