CANON CITY — Fremont County will soon be moving to level orange COVID restrictions as cases continue to rise, leaving those in the area’s robust tourism industry preparing for the effects.
The train is big, but for Royal Gorge Railroad part-owner Mark Greksa, his business is small
“My late wife, Leah, and I--we really worked hard to build it,” Greksa said.
For over two decades, his family have set out on a mission to grow the railroad.
“In May of 1999, we ran our first train through the Royal Gorge, with five cars and a cooler,” Greksa said. “We picked up dome cars from Alaska that we found that were built in the 1950s.”\
It’s been full steam ahead.
“We’re probably--I would imagine--the second largest employer in Fremont County,” he said.
But this year, something got in the way.
“Normally we carry 155,000 people through the Royal Gorge,” Greksa said. “But to see that suddenly come to an end… to see that happen when a pandemic hit and you say… okay. We could lose our business.”
The railroad shut down from March until May. Since then, traffic has been decent, even with reduced capacity.
“Since March; 80,000 people,” he said.
Of those 80,000 passengers, not a single reported covid case. But this week, Greksa got a message he was hoping he’d never get.
“We were notified by the Fremont County Department of Health that we had three employees test positive back in November,” he said.
COVID cases have been rising fast in Fremont County.
"We have had just... massive increases,” Fremont County Public Health Director Kayla MArler said. “We're seeing about 80 to 100 positive confirmed cases a day."
“It’s something we don’t take lightly,” Greksa said.
Luckily for greksa, the cases at the railroad were isolated.
but as restrictions continue to tighten on the community at large, it’ll take a group effort to keep businesses like his on track.
“If that does change, and Fremont County goes into the red category, then that will change things for everyone,” he said.
Those new level orange restrictions are set to go into effect in Fremont County Friday morning.