Don’t Destroy Estes Park

by Alex

As a tourist cruising into Estes Park on your weekend getaway, you’ll not only notice the breathtaking views of Rocky Mountain National Park and the local wildlife roaming around town, but something new will catch your eye and pique your curiosity. “No Loop,” “We Do NOT Support Action on the Loop,” “Don’t Destroy Estes,” signs (and other various forms of the same message) stuck in front-yards and display windows. What are these people protesting? As a local, I know the controversy is surrounding the proposed plan to transform downtown Estes Park into a one way “loop” in order to make traffic coming through downtown manageable. The project, that’s come to be known as “the loop,” has caused quite an uproar among locals. The arguments of those opposed to “the loop” (which is an apparently vocal majority) theorize “the loop” will ruin the integrity and charm of downtown Estes Park, a major allure of the town. Others are concerned with the businesses and houses that will have to be removed in order to make room to accommodate the new road. These are just a couple of the many reasons why occupants of Estes Park are not in favor of “the loop.”[1]

Clifford Geertz would say “the loop” signs qualify as a symbol because they are public and can be interpreted into meaning[2]. The way they are interpreted and the type of meaning they symbolize, though, depends on the interpreter and the culture from which they come. As a local, I see the signs as an indicator that the owner is passionately involved in the local political atmosphere of Estes Park and as well as a form of protest against “the loop”. Due to my own bias I may believe they are an older business owner that doesn’t get out of Estes Park much and is opposed to big change. From an American tourist’s interpretation, they may look at the sign, assuming it to be an item coming up for vote in the next local election, due to the similar look of political candidate signs that appear in yards around elections. They’d figure Estes Park residents are concerned about the wellbeing of their community.

A culture and personality anthropologist would believe Estes Park to be a particular culture that has produced a particular type of people[3], which in turn produced those in opposition to the type of change “the loop,” would bring. Through the theory of culture and personality, one would wonder what aspects of Estes Park culture lead the majority of the citizens to be against “the loop.” Is the unified opinion of the project a result of small town culture or is it specific to Estes Park? Individuals against “the loop” represent a large portion of the community, their distain is seen as a “normal” way for a member of the specific culture to act. Those in favor of “the loop” are a necessary portion of the population as well, fulfilling the position of the “quiet minority.”

[1], accessed 14 September 2015.

[2]Clifford Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” The Interpretation of Cultures, New York: Basic Books, 1973, pp. 3-30.

[3] Lecture, Professor Carole McGranahan, ANTH 2100 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, 14 September 2015.

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22 Responses to Don’t Destroy Estes Park

  1. Kaitlin May says:


    Like most of my fellow Colorado natives, I also take frequent trips to Estes Park. I too have noticed the “loop” signs in almost every window of the business district. Personal feelings toward the issue aside, I think that you have made very astute anthropological observations about the town’s reaction to the proposed plan. When I was there I asked a few shop keepers about the issue and along with their passionate opinions they had great pride for their public defiance. Being able to put a sign up in protest does hold great meaning to them. They have identified a symbol that they can rally behind towards a common goal. This brings the community together over something that all involved feel is vital to their culture.

  2. Nicholas Paulin says:


    I really like how you proposed all of your beliefs on what the the “loop” mean to others besides yourself. It was very interesting to see what you believed the loop symbolized on a wide range of groups and people instead of just yourself. It was really cool to see that you included your own bias to come to conclusion that you believed that the ones opposing it are older business men who haven’t been that far outside of Estes. I feel like that made your writing a lot more pronounced because people tend to shy away from their own personal belief in many cases.

  3. Audrianna Bobo says:

    I liked your essay because of the personal perspective that you took on it. I was just in Estes Park yesterday and saw the “loop” signs. I think that the split in perpesctive is interesting and that the use of anthropological theories helps us to understand why people have the opinions they do over this issue. It almost seems that in an indirect way (or it might be direct as well) that locals are also looking out for tourists intersts alongside their own when protesting the loop. The conern that the loop would take away from the charm and personality of Estes is an issue that conerns both locals and tourists, I think.

  4. Leo Borasio says:

    I found this essay compelling, because it struck a personal resonance with me. In the small town that I am from we would often have proposed projects that would receive strong opposition, and strong support, virtually splitting the town in two. The sign was really is an effective symbol because it shows your stance, and the direction you believe the town should head in. From my experience I’ve found these small town disagreements are often not just about the issue, but about the general well being of the town as a whole, so I fully agree with you! Great essay Alex and great writing, it was very intriguing and relatable. It will be interesting to see which path Estes chooses to go down.

  5. Madison Arata says:

    Just last weekend, I visited Estes Park. The visit being my first time, the signs caught my attention. The local I was traveling with had many opinions that agreed with yours and as a visitor I also supported both of your views because creating the loop would take away the full effect tourists endure in such a beautiful place. Mad props to you for stating your opinion and providing evidence to support it, I really enjoyed your writing. Great job!

  6. Laura Hiserodt says:

    As a local Colorado resident I was appalled to hear that this loop might happen. I desperately hope the majority and Estes lovers, and also Federal law will protect our beloved state park. You connected anthropological theory to this event seamlessly, and your essay was very eye opening and terrifying to read as someone who visited Estes quite frequently as a child. I agree to your opinion that the signs are representative of the peoples fear and opinion of their park. I really really hope they don’t go through with this destructive abomination!

  7. Lily Mindel says:

    I found this essay really intriguing and a great read. I really liked how you opened up the essay with “As a tourist cruising into Estes Park on your weekend getaway, you’ll not only notice the breathtaking views of Rocky Mountain National Park and the local wildlife roaming around town, but something new will catch your eye and pique your curiosity.” This sentence really caught my attention because I feel like I would be one of the “tourists” and would probably think the exact same thing even after living in Colorado for almost four years. I have not been to Estes Park and just by this little introduction you immediately got me wondering what “The Loop” was!

  8. Peter Koukov says:

    I for one absolutely love Estes Park and the type of city/town that it is. It is little quiet and main street really is what makes it more than just a little town with a few houses. I agree %100 in your beliefs and the majority of the residents in Estes Park in saying that “the loop” will decrease the integrity of the city and will force people to drive by without seeing what Estes Park really is. It is also really like how you looked at this more at a cultural standpoint and less on business side because although business may struggle it really should be what the community wants and how the residents of Estes Park want the culture of their town to continue. All around great essay, well done!

    -Peter Koukov

  9. I love Estes Park. My grandparents live there so this is a place close to the heart for me. I love coming from New Jersey to Estes Park and the Stanley Hotel perched on top of one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. Yet, people are still interested in ruining its beauty with the Loop. After reading this essay, I am very proud to see another student is interested in stopping the Loop project. I am even more impressed with the way this student related both Clifford Geertz’ Symbolic -Interpretive theory and Cultural-Personality theory to this topic. The author did a very good job showing the interest of Estes Park residents in preserving the land they love so much. In addition, the Culture-Personality theory provides a similar view. If I were to advise the author of anything, it would be to use one different theory than both of the theories I mentioned above. They are very similar and give the essay a repetitive motion. Other than that, the essay is very well done and provides information on a great topic. Stop the Loop!

  10. Anna Sweitzer says:

    I love visting Estes Park and believe that it is incredibly beautiful and if this “loop” were to be constructed I agree that it would ruin a lot that the park has going for itself. The beginning of your essay was very intriguing and made me want to read more. Your arguments are relatable and you apply all of your anthropological connections very well. It was a very informative essay and you answered all of the questions that I had from reading the opening sentences very quickly.

  11. mbarks1 says:

    Never having been to Estes Park , I thought that this essay was definitely an interesting read. I think your explanation was very well written and it was easy to understand the problem at hand without former knowledge of Estes Park. I think that the two theories you wrote about were really appropriately applied to the problem as well. I think it would be really interesting to look at it from a structural standpoint. It could work really well with applying the binary opposition element of the theory.

  12. Greta Schock (Recitation #11) says:

    While the fact stands that locals to Estes Park are clearly vocal against the “loop,” one must weigh the pros and cons of the factor. While the different perspectives of anthropology contribute to the behavior of those in opposition to “the loop,” I am much more interested in the opinion of those who are in favor of the loop. With a structural functionalist perspective, I think that although there might not be as many locals in support of the loop, it is still within the duty of an anthropologist to explore all sides of a culture, which in this case includes two sides.

  13. Tyler Nielsen says:

    I like your essay and how you used “the loop” as a symbol for change and how the culture around the area feels towards it. I also like that you expressed how they would reject the change in culture too that this loop would bring. I wonder how the residents would react to a functionalists perspective that the loop would provide the basis for ease of travel and further leading to the benefit of everyone.

  14. sophiesquire says:

    Your essay is well written and simply explains an important aspect in society. By using a controversial topic such as “the loop” you were able to analyze how ones connection to something can lead to a strong connection with others that can spark change in an environment. You sucessfully entailed this by referring to symbolic anthroological theory. I also enjoyed how you included a personal view on the topic, but also included an opposing view. Good job.

  15. Noelle says:

    While reading this essay, I was struck by the ways in which an everyday object (a “loop” sign) is interpreted and given emotional significance. Somebody coming in from an outsider perspective would not necessarily understand the “loop” signs in the same way or have the same reaction that the locals do. This shows how the meaning of an object can change from culture to culture, and that public understanding of symbols creates a knowledge and therefore shared culture.

  16. Dillon Ragar (Rec. 13) says:


    My first reaction to the proposed “loop” is that the stake holders have very different interests. It would seem that the loop serves the purposes of the tourists much more than the town’s residents. Should out-of-town tourists get a higher priority than people living there? It seems that supporters of the loop could claim that it would bring much tourism money into the town by allowing a greater volume of tourists in, but these tourist dollars would not be shared evenly, and some businesses would no doubt lose revenue by being in the wrong place on the loop. In any case, a compromise should be made—the traffic in Estes is very bad. Hopefully a solution can be designed that takes all stake holders into account more evenly.

  17. meghan drummond says:

    I felt as though I genuinely benefited from reading your essay, as someone who has witness these signs and had no idea of their origin or meaning. You did a marvelous job at exploring something local and controversial, while balancing your personal perspective with an anthropological one. I appreciated being informed on an issue and also being given to the tools to view the issue in multiple ways. I was truly impressed by your exploration of symbolism regarding the “Loop” signs, analyzing the variety of emotional significance that the signs have had upon different people.

  18. Laurel Bloszies says:

    It’s great how you mentioned the “quiet minority” within the Estes Park population who are actually in favor of the “loop”. If there are locals who see it as a potential benefit to the community, I would be very interested to hear their side of the issue. Most of the time in these types of situations it’s the big corporations or the government coming into a small town and making some change that affects the community in what they perceive as a negative way. If there are people who look at the “loop” and see its new financial opportunities, they are probably the minority because that goes against the “small town” approach to big, sudden changes.

  19. Dylan Robinson-Ruet says:

    I like the personal feel of the essay. You can very clearly ascertain what the loop is and peoples thoughts and opinions on it. The issue seems like it has certainly polarized the town quite a bit and it would certainly be interesting to find out more about the issue. I liked how you said that Estes Park is its own unique culture that has fostered its own unique response, and I would definitely be interested in finding out more about this response and what sort of organizing the community has done. I also like how you thought about what Clifford Geertz would say about this issue.

  20. Marissa Marino says:

    This essay makes for good imagery right from the start, this made me think of the countless trips my family and I took into the mountains. The issue presented in this essay is constantly seen in every region across America, especially when you study Environmental Studies. I can fully understand locals having the fear that their sense of community will be destroyed by outsiders overtime. You did a great job of being concise and were able to get across your message in a well though out manner.

  21. Danielle Pourier says:

    I think your subject was very easy to feel for because it’s so local and almost all of the readers have some sort of relation to the area of Estes Park. Prior to reading your essay I’m sure lots of our classmates, including myself, had little knowledge on the whole loop situation, and what each side’s arguments were. Your article not only shed light on the conflict, gave perspective from each side, and gave sentimental value to the subject, but also helped us as new cultural anthropology students get used to thinking from each perspective theory lens on all types of topics.

  22. Jack Seaton says:

    I agree with the towns people of Estes Park, I understand what they are protesting and why because I, myself have gone through the same thing in my small hometown. This essay showed great light on the situation and how it connects to anthropological points of view. Great work.

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