Monterey County

Pinnacles National Park bringing big business for some in Soledad

SOLEDAD, Calif. - The cost to enter one of the Central Coast's biggest attractions will soon double.  We're talking about Pinnacles, America's newest national park. 

A day entrance pass to the park will double from $5 to $10 on August 1st.  Park officials said the money will be used to provide better customer service.

But are businesses seeing the boost they've been hoping for?  On Friday, some said they're seeing a big boost, while others said profits have leveled off.  Pinnacles officially became a national park about a year and a half ago.  That's when businesses said they saw the biggest jump in sales.

"We're actually seeing our sales tax, 11 percent higher than they were say last year," said Soledad Mayor Pro Tem Alejandro Chavez.

With a general fund budget of about $6.5 million, Chavez said an 11 percent increase in the city's sales tax base is more than a drop in the bucket.

"Just directly we know that there's been an increase in foot traffic, in car traffic because of the Pinnacles," Chavez said.

The city is doing everything it can to attract visitors to Pinnacles National Park.  It's planning to open a new visitor center next month and it is working with Monterey County to improve road conditions leading from the city to the front of the park.  The city is also hoping to attract a new hotel near the city's two other hotels.  The National Park Service reports 237,667 people visited the park last year and spent $13.1 million in nearby communities.

"We're seeing an increase of anywhere between 30 to 35 percent in this year alone from one year to the next.  So that translates to about 20,000 to 30,000 more visitors per year," Chavez said.

The Windmill Restaurant said it has more people coming through its doors, which means more money in the cash register. 

"10 to 20 percent.  But it helps," said Jose Trenado, owner of The Windmill Restaurant. 

That foot traffic has also paved the way for more than 150 jobs, according to the National Park Service.  Those jobs lead to interesting conversations with customers from all over the world.

"We have people that come from Spain, from Chile.  Ya, I was like, what?" Trenado said.

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