“No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” Yogi Berra
I recently moved to a resort town. Our tiny village of Estes Park, Colorado, has 6,000 full-time residents, yet nearby Rocky Mountain National Park hosted 4.5 million visitors last year, with many of them coming through or staying in Estes Park. There are bound to be some issues.
I often see visitors too close to wildlife. Some say this problem has a way of working itself out, but then the wildlife, just acting like, well, wild animals, will be put down if something happens.
I recently confronted a teenager in Rocky Mountain National Park who was attempting to coax a ground squirrel onto her hand to “pet” it. I told her that was actually harassing the wildlife. She said, “Hey, I’m not feeding it!” Folks, the wildlife do not want to be petted, or ridden or even be in your selfies.
As a Colorado campaign for safe wildlife viewing states in their humorous ads, “Sometimes the best relationship is a long-distance one.”
Most visitors come to our town in the summer and early fall. The roads are congested, our one grocery store is almost impossible to navigate, and crowds virtually shut down Rocky Mountain National Park on most days during the season.
Town folk, on the other hand, moved here knowing full well it is a tourist destination. It has been from its inception. Moaning about the tourists in Estes Park is like jumping into a pool and then complaining it’s too wet.
Because of our visitors, we have many things most towns of our size do not. A hospital, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, a good-sized police force and other emergency services, as well as a thriving community, festivals, and a myriad of cultural experiences. Our visitors contribute a great deal to our economy, and many of us are employed, directly or indirectly, because of them.
Yes, we wish all visitors would do a little due diligence before visiting. Not everyone will. But we all must realize that we, too, could be in new situations and do a “touristy” thing or two, as well. For example, did you know:
If you are in Spain and get bird droppings on you, a nice person will come up and help you wipe it off. It is only later you will realize your wallet is missing, and the bird poop was fake.
If you are on the beautiful island of Anguilla in the Caribbean, it’s considered the height of rudeness to just conduct your business without first shaking hands, introducing yourself, and spending five or so minutes chatting.
If you are riding the tiny escalators down to the underground metro stations in Washington, D.C., stand on the right, leaving the left open for people in a hurry. And don’t stop at the bottom of the escalator to figure out the ticketing system.
It is considered very rude to eat or drink while walking down the street in Japan.
In many Arab countries, it is considered an insult to show the soles of your shoes.
Most churches in Italy request women cover their bare shoulders and have clothes at least down to their knees when visiting.
And yes, there can always be communication and/or cultural differences. Last night Hubs gently reminded some neighborhood VRBO renters that they were climbing on our neighbor’s private property. They gave him a friendly “thumbs up” sign as they left, a very nice gesture. Unless they were from Italy or Greece, in which case it means “Up yours!”
Last week I met many people on the trails in the national park. One said, “It’s great here, everyone is so friendly!” I think it’s because most of the time, we residents remember how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place. That’s why so many people visit!