The first residents of Estes Park were the Native Americans. Before Europeans came to the Estes Park valley, the Arapaho Indians lived there in the summertime and called the valley "the Circle." When three elderly Arapahoes visited Estes Park in 1914, they pointed out sites they remembered from their younger days. In the 1850s, the Arapaho had spent summers camped around Mary's Lake, where their rock fireplaces, tipi sites, and dance rings were still visible. They also recalled building eagle traps atop Long's Peak to get the war feathers coveted by all tribes. They remembered their routes to and from the valley in detail, naming trails and landmarks. They pointed out the site of their buffalo trap, and described the use of dogs to pack meat out of the valley. Their recollections included a battle with Apaches in the 1850s, and fights with Utes who came to the area to hunt bighorn sheep, so all three of those tribes used the valley's resources.
The history of the Estes Park is much shorter. In the spring of 2012 the leadership of Estes Valley Partners for Commerce, concerned about the present vitality and future viability of the economy of the Estes Valley, appointed an Economic Development Task Force. Its task was to suggest ways of broadening and strengthening our current economy in ways that complement and sustain the current vision statement of the Town of Estes Park and its Board of Trustees to enhance our position as a premier mountain community.
The Task Force held its initial meeting in May 2012. It then met on a regular basis throughout the summer and fall. Minutes were taken. The Task Force first made use of documents produced by the “Vision 21” initiative organized by Estes Park Mayor William Pinkham in 2005, and the ideas and recommendations found in its two public documents: 2017 Facing the Future: An Economic Vision for a Sustainable Community, a 52-page power point presentation, and 2017 Vision Committee, Final Recommendations. The Task force then conducted in-depth phone and in-person
interviews with twelve individuals who are either leading or directly involved with economic development efforts on behalf of communities across Colorado. It also reviewed studies and current literature on economic development and studied past Town reports. The official Estes Park Economic Development Corporation was founded in 2013.
Below, is the Estes Park EDC's inaugural document "The Path Forward."