Area visitors may no longer be able to have their Cliff Palace or Spruce Tree House postcards postmarked from Mesa Verde National Park under a proposed plan by the U.S. Postal Service to close the park’s only post office.
The first public meeting on the matter scheduled in October was cancelled due to road conditions after a snowstorm. Instead, the meeting was held Monday, at which point a majority of the park’s seasonal workers and visitors had left for the year.
More than 20 people attended Monday’s meeting. They said the post office, located approximately 25 miles from the park entrance, is the only connection to the outside world for some park employees. UPS and Federal Express do not deliver in the park, they said, and park employees who work weekdays at the park are unable to make it to Mancos or Cortez post offices before they close at the end of the day.
Walter McBain, a regional manager of post office operations, said the U.S. Postal Service is in “dire straits,” with a projected $8.5 to 10 billion loss for the fiscal year.
A representative of the Mesa Verde Museum Association present at the meeting said the organization has sold 1,100 stamps to visitors and produces approximately 7,500 pieces of mail a year, generating an estimated $14,000 in annual postage.
McBain attributed the loss in part to a requirement for the postal service to pre-fund retirement benefits, increasing customer use of electronic correspondence and a depressed economy. He said to save money by reducing delivery to five days a week, or lifting the requirement to pre-fund retirement benefits, would take an act of Congress.
“We’ve been doing everything that’s within our control to minimize the losses and to try to streamline our services and reduce costs and continue to provide services to our customers,” he said.
McBain said it could be five to nine months before a decision is made, depending on the process. A 60-day public comment period is currently open. After that, the postal service will make a decision on the fate of the post office. The decision will be publicly posted for 30 days, during which the decision might be appealed to the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission.
If appealed, the decision could be held off for another 120 days.
Yellow Jacket and Egnar Post Offices are also being studied for closure. Lewis, Pleasant View and Rico post offices were removed from the closure study process this year.
Several alternatives have been suggested if the office is closed, including cluster post office boxes near the park entrance, offering postal services through existing retailers in the park, or a once daily pickup/delivery person.
The Mesa Verde Post Office made approximately $26,000 in 2007, $27,000 in 2008, and $24,000 in 2009 and $21,000 in 2010, McBain said.
Reach Reid Wright at [email protected]