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NPS

For Immediate Release – September 8, 2017
Katherine Faz: 719-378-6341

Great Sand Dunes Celebrates Dark Night Skies on September 22

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will host an amateur astronomy night and star party on Friday, September 22 to celebrate the clear, dark night skies in the San Luis Valley and educate the public on how to experience this unique and endangered resource.

The event will kick off at 8:30pm at the South Ramada Picnic Area, adjacent to the main dunes parking area. Dark sky friendly lighting will illuminate walking paths from the dunes parking area to the South Ramada picnic area where members from various astronomy clubs such as the Southern Colorado Astronomical Society and the Great Sand Dunes’ Astronomy volunteer will set up multiple telescopes for visitors to view planets and deep sky objects. Visitors are welcome to bring their own equipment to participate and share their knowledge and appreciation of dark skies and celestial objects. Park rangers and volunteers will serve hot chocolate, demonstrate how to read a star chart, and lead an educational activity on planetary alignment. Visitors can also learn more about how to minimize light pollution in their community and contribute to the dark sky movement. The Western National Parks Association store will sell star charts, guide books on reading the night sky, flashlights and head lamps.

This event is free of charge and requires no advance registration. Visitors interested in camping at the Pinon Flats Campground should arrive early in the evening to set up camp in Loop 1 or Loop 2 for $20/night. Visitors are encouraged to wear warm layers, bring flashlights, and wear sturdy shoes.

Great Sand Dunes is one of the darkest national parks in the National Park System due to its high elevation, distance from light pollution, and relatively dry air. Great Sand Dunes’ surrounding communities, Crestone (on the northern boundary) and Westcliffe (on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range), are dark sky friendly neighbors that protect this resource by encouraging their residents and businesses to install night friendly lighting. This has contributed to Great Sand Dunes reputation as an excellent and easily accessible dark sky viewing location.

For more information on this special events at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, please visit www.nps.gov/grsa or call the visitor center at 719-378-6399. For more information on other ways to experience the night, visit https://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/experiencethenight.htm
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 18, 2017
Contact: Katherine Faz, Kathy_Faz@nps.gov, 719-378-6341

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Proposes Entrance Fee Increase

Mosca, CO – Great Sand Dunes National Park is proposing a change to its’ fee rates to align with the new National Park Service rate schedule. The new proposed fee schedule will increase the cost of per person entry (for visitors bicycling or walking through the Entrance Station); the annual Great Sand Dunes Pass; as well as the cost for per vehicle entry, non-commercial (family) vehicles; and an increase in fees for motorcycles. The entrance fee changes and their implementation would be as follows:

Current
Annual Great Sand Dunes Pass - $30
Per Vehicle (private, non-commercial) - $15
Motorcycle - $10
Per Person - $7

2018
Annual Great Sand Dunes Pass - $40
Per Vehicle (private, non-commercial) - $20
Motorcycle - $15
Per Person - $10

“We are committed to keeping the park affordable but we also want to provide visitors with the best possible experience,” said Acting Park Superintendent Phil Wilson. “We use the money from park entrance fees to maintain, repair and improve our facilities, enhance essential visitor services such as events and programs, restore critical habitat for the wildlife that visitors come to see and enjoy, and to support our law enforcement rangers in their public safety duties.”

One project that can benefit from this fee increase would be the Piñon Flats Campground and Mosca Creek Picnic Area enhancements which would include new flooring, heating systems and water distribution lines for restroom facilities.
It is important to note that a visitor to the park will only be charged one of these entrance fees—not a combination of them. Passes are valid for seven days from the date of issue, allowing visitors to enter and exit the park multiple times during that 7-day period by showing their paid receipt.

Of the 417 units in the National Park System, 118 parks currently collect fees. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) is the legislation under which Great Sand Dunes and the other 118 park units currently collects entrance and campground fees. Currently, national parks like Great Sand Dunes retain 80 percent of the entrance fees collected for use on projects that directly benefit visitors. The remaining 20 percent is distributed to other park units throughout the National Park System.

Since the beginning of FLREA and its predecessor program, Fee Demo, Great Sand Dunes has been able to devote more than $7 million to enhance visitor services at the park, funding facility repair and maintenance, visitor amenities, and visitor programs and services.

The public is encouraged to comment about Great Sand Dunes’ proposed new entrance fees. That feedback helps park managers determine the appropriateness of entrance fees.

We invite the public to submit comments electronically via the National Park Service's Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grsa_fees. Click on: Proposal to Increase Fees at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Comments will also be accepted in writing (hand-delivery, by mail, or fax). To submit written comments, you may mail or hand-deliver your comments to Chief of Administration & Fees, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Attn: Proposal to Increase Fees, 11500 State Hwy 150, Mosca, CO 81146. In addition, faxed comments will be accepted at (719) 378-6310.

Comments submitted by e-mail and anonymous comments will not be accepted. Bulk comments in any format submitted on behalf of others will not be accepted. All public comments must be received by September 17, 2017.

Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment - including your personal identifying information - may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask the National Park Service in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

For more information, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/grsa or call Public Information Officer, Katherine Faz at 719-378-6341.

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For Immediate Release – August 14, 2017
Katherine Faz: 719-378-6341

The Lightning-caused Castle Creek Fire at Great Sand Dunes is Out

The lightning-caused Castle Creek fire in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area of Great Sand Dunes National Preserve was called out on August 8. The determination was based on an absence of discernable fire activity, consistent monsoonal rains and the lack of a detectable heat source during a recent infrared overflight by the Division of Fire Prevention and Control’s Multi-mission Aircraft.

The fire had been burning at 11,000 feet in steep and rough terrain and posed minimal impacts to visitors. Since July 12 when the fire started, fire personnel tracked its behavior and implemented management strategies considering access to the remote terrain, safety of firefighters, available resources, as well as observed and expected fire behavior.

The National Park Service wishes to thank the San Luis Valley Interagency Fire Management Unit and the Pike and San Isabel National Forests for their assistance in the management of the Castle Creek Fire.

Wildland fires at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve contribute to healthy forest ecosystems. The National Park Service uses wildland fires as a tool to restore fire’s role as a dynamic and necessary natural process in maintaining healthy and sustainable ecosystems while protecting lives, property and natural and cultural resources. To learn more about fire management in national park units, visit www.nps.gov/fire

-NPS-
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For Immediate Release – August 2, 2017
Katherine Faz: 719-378-6341

Great Sand Dunes Celebrates Junior Ranger Day


Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is celebrating Junior Ranger Day this Saturday, August 5, 2017. Activities will take place from 9:00am to 1:00pm at the South Ramada Picnic Area. Participants will have the opportunity to earn patches, pedometers and T-shirts after completing a variety of activities. Families and children of all ages are welcome and there no fees or reservations are required to participate.

Orientation, prize, and activity tables will be set up at the South Ramada Picnic Area, adjacent to the Dunes Parking Area. Participants should park at the Dunes Parking Area and follow signs to the South Ramada Picnic Area. Park Rangers and volunteers will be available to provide general information and a map of the activities. This year, Great Sand Dunes has organized the following activities for kids to participate in:

  • Learn about mountain lions, pronghorns, and a variety of insects at the “Animal Obstacle Course.”
  • Stop by the “Touch Table” station to learn more about artifacts, rocks, and other exciting items that have been found in the park.
  • Try on the uniform that best suits you and explore careers with the National Park Service at the “Ranger Station.”
  • In an effort to promote physical activity in National Parks, the Friends of the Dunes will provide pedometers for Junior Rangers to participate in “Steps for Stamps” =- walk or hike 2,000 steps (1 mile) with a pedometer and earn a sticker.
  • Look for plants, animals, and unique features in the dunes as part of the “Scavenger Hunt.”


Junior Rangers will collect a sticker after completing each activity and pick up prizes at the South Ramada picnic area.

This event is made possible with generous support from the Friends of the Dunes and the staff and volunteers at Great Sand Dunes. The Friends of the Dunes is a non-profit organization committed to supporting research and education at Great Sand Dunes.

For more information on Junior Ranger Day and other programs and special events at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, please visit www.nps.gov/grsa or call the visitor center at 719-378-6395.

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For Immediate Release – July 19, 2017
Katherine Faz: 719-378-6341

Park Continues to Manage the Lightning-caused Castle Creek Fire


The Castle Creek fire started approximately at 4:00pm on July 12 near the area burned in the 2010 Medano fire in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area of Great Sand Dunes National Preserve. The half-acre lightning-caused fire is burning at 11,000 feet in steep and rough terrain and poses minimal impacts to visitors. The National Park Service, in cooperation with the San Luis Valley Interagency Fire Management Unit and the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, continues to manage the Castle Creek Fire in the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness Area within the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve.

Fire personnel developed short and long term management strategies while tracking its ignition. The recent precipitation since July 12 has been 1.96 inches at that elevation due to the summer monsoon season which has contributed to a decrease in fire behavior. On Sunday, July 16, an infrared overflight by the Division of Fire Prevention and Control’s Multi-mission Aircraft detected only one heat source. At this time, fire personnel continue to track the fire behavior and implement management strategies taking into consideration access to the remote terrain, safety of firefighters, available resources, as well as current and expected fire behavior.

Wildland fires at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve contribute to healthy forest ecosystems. The National Park Service uses wildland fires as a tool to restore fire’s role as a dynamic and necessary natural process in maintaining healthy and sustainable ecosystems while protecting lives, property and natural and cultural resources. To learn more about fire management in national park units, visit www.nps.gov/fire

Great Sand Dunes will continue to provide updates on significant management decisions on the park’s website. For more information on the Castle Creek fire, contact Kathy Faz, Public Information Officer, at 719-582-0258.

-NPS-

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For Immediate Release – July 14, 2017
Katherine Faz: 719-378-6341

Park Manages Lightning-caused Castle Creek Fire


The National Park Service, in cooperation with the San Luis Valley Interagency Fire Management Unit and the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, is actively managing the lightning-caused Castle Creek Fire in the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness Area within the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve. Adjacent to the 2010 Medano Fire burn scar, the fire is burning at an approximate elevation of 11,000’ in steep and rough terrain. The fire started at approximately 4 pm on July 12 in mixed conifer vegetation.
The fire is estimated at one-half acre. Currently, there are no natural or cultural resources at risk and there are only minimal impacts to visitors. Based on current fire activity and predicted weather this weekend, fire personnel will continue to develop short and long term management strategies while tracking fire behavior. Management strategies will consider access to the remote terrain, safety of firefighters, available resources, as well as current and expected fire behavior.
Wildland fires contribute to healthy forest ecosystems. Wildfires are often used as a tool to restore fire’s role as a dynamic and necessary natural process in maintaining healthy and sustainable ecosystems while protecting lives, property and natural and cultural resources. To learn more about fire management in national park units, visit www.nps.gov/fire
Great Sand Dunes will provide updates on significant management decisions on the park’s website. For more information on the Castle Creek fire, contact Kathy Faz, Public Information Officer, at 719-582-0258.
-NPS-
__________________
For Immediate Release

June 28, 2017

General Press inquiries: Katherine Faz, Public Information Officer, 719-582-0258 or kathy_faz@nps.gov

The Body of a Missing Hiker within Great Sand Dunes National Preserve is Identified


Today the Saguache County Coroner identified a body discovered by hikers in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve as Bryan Skilinski of Phoenix, NY.

Skilinski was last seen on May 8, 2017 departing from the Sand Pit Picnic Area in the National Park. A park ranger discovered his vehicle parked in the lot and a multi-agency search effort was initiated. The search response was delayed because Skilinski did not obtain a permit or leave an itinerary of his trip with family and his destination or whereabouts were unknown.

Hikers discovered the deceased near Milwaukee Peak in the National Preserve on Monday and efforts were initiated to recover the victim’s body. Due to deep, heavy snow at lower elevations the area that Skilinski was located had not been searched by teams. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve encompasses more than 140,000 acres including rugged high altitude and wilderness terrain.

The Coroner’s Office has not released a cause of death in the case and the incident remains under investigation. No foul play is suspected.

The park’s staff has been in close contact with the victim’s family since May and extends gratitude to the agencies that assisted with the search in May as well as the recovery. These agencies include: the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office, Saguache County Coroner, Custer County Sheriff’s Office, Saguache County Search and Rescue, Custer County Search and Rescue, Western Mountain Rescue, US Forest Service Monument Heli tack, Flight for Life, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control’s Multi Mission Aircraft as well as dog teams from Larimer, Park and El Paso Counties.

Park visitors are encouraged to alert loved ones or park staff to their hiking plans when visiting remote locations.

Media inquiries should be directed to Public Information Officer, Kathy Faz at 719-582-0258.

-NPS-

Tourism to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve creates $28 million in Economic Benefits

Report shows visitor spending supports 348 jobs in local economy

Mosca, CO – A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 388,807 visitors to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in 2016 spent $23,701,000 in communities near the park. That spending supported 348 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $28 million.

“We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides”, said Acting Superintendent Scott Stonum. “NPS employees care for the parks and interpret the stories of these iconic natural, cultural and historic landscapes, but it takes our nearby communities to fully provide our visitors with food, lodging and other services that complete a national park experience.” In 2016, Great Sand Dunes saw a 30% increase in visitation due to increase media attention for the National Park Service Centennial celebrations, Medano creek flow, lower gas prices, and the increase in population within the state. The park supported a variety of programs and special events for the Centennial throughout the summer and fall months to accommodate the increase in visitors, which in turn contributed to more visitors enjoying the local community.

The report shows $18.4 billion of direct spending by 331 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 318,000 jobs nationally; 271,544 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $ 34.9 billion.

According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.2 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.2 percent), gas and oil (11.7 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7 percent), local transportation (7.4 percent), and camping fees (2.5%).

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis and interactive tool was created by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. Users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies, and also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: go.nps.gov/vse.

To learn more about national parks in Colorado and how the National Park Service works with communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/Colorado. For more information about the economic benefits of Great Sand Dunes, contact Kathy Faz at kathy_faz@nps.gov or 719-378-6341.

 
Kathy and Willa celebrate Every Kid in a Park
Great Sand Dunes Park Ranger, Kathy Faz, presents San Luis Valley 4th grader, Willa Seesz-Sanchez with her Every Kid in a Park free access pass.

Great Sand Dunes Welcomes 4th Grade Students through "Every Kid in a Park"

National Program Encourages Families and Classes to Visit National Parks

Great Sand Dunes invites all 4th grade students to visit the park for free as part of the "Every Kid in a Park" program. Fourth grade students can visit www.everykidinapark.gov to complete an activity and obtain a voucher. Bring your voucher to a National Park Service site and exchange it for a free annual entry pass to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national park units, wildlife refuge areas, and US national forests! View full press release (pdf) >

 
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Last updated: September 12, 2017

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Mailing Address:

Visitor Center
11999 State Highway 150

Mosca, CO 81146

Phone:

(719) 378-6395

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