Glacier expects more visitors with centennial
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Glacier National Park will likely see a 2 percent to 12 percent increase in visitors this year as it celebrates its 100th anniversary, A National Park Service official says. "We've looked at other parks who've honored their 100th anniversaries," said Kass Hardy, Glacier centennial coordinator. "I think it's probably expected that we'll see something similar to that." Some other parks that saw increases for centennials were Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado in 2006 wi th an increase in visitation of 9 percent, Mount Rainer National Park in Washington state in 1999 when visitation was up 11.7 percent, and Zion National Park in Utah last year with an increase of 1.9 percent. The centennial at Glacier is being celebrated with educational and interpretive programs, tours, concerts, and a film festival. There will also be reunions of past park employees. Dorothy Van Geison, general manager of the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, said things look good so far. "Our bookings are much stronger for this coming summer than they were for last year," Van Geison said. "I sense that we're seeing more confidence, more excitement." But she credits the improving economy rather than Glacier National Park's centennial, considering many of her visitors aren't aware of the park's 100th anniversary when they arrive. "We find that we're doing a lot of education to people about the centennial," Van Geison said. "I think people are just confident about traveling." Jan Metzmaker, director of the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau, hopes the centennial will bolster visits to Whitefish, which relies on tourism to Glacier. "I am predicting that we are going to have a very good summer season," she said. "We think people are traveling again. They're spending a little more money."