The Visual Impacts of National Park Designation on Gateway Communities in the United States: A Photographic Examination of Estes Park, Colorado

Authors: Caitlin Lebeda*, University of Denver
Topics: Historical Geography, Cultural Geography, Landscape
Keywords: Gateway communities, national parks, tourism
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since the advent of the National Park Service in the United States, towns known as gateway communities have served tourists from around the world visiting America’s national parks. Gateway communities are the towns and cities that border public lands and protected spaces. The impact of our visits on these gateway communities is considerable, with many gateways and their residents relying on consistent and ever-increasing visitation to national parks to spur economic growth and development. To fully understand the impacts that national park designations have had on their gateway communities, it is important to determine what changes have occurred both physically and culturally in these communities. This research is a case study of Estes Park, Colorado, the gateway community of Rocky Mountain National Park, the fourth most visited national park in the United States. This project utilized a repeat photography method and a comprehensive archival photography analysis to visualize the changes that have occurred in Estes Park since the establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park in 1915. This analysis suggests that Estes Park has grown considerably around tourists, with new development focused mainly on meeting the needs of visitors and a larger population spurred by the creation of the park. However, the analysis also suggests that the culture of Estes Park has been tied to preserving the wilderness that surrounds it, sometimes to the detriment of development that could spur additional tourism.

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