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Grand Lake mayor meets second lady Karen Pence

Second lady Karen Pence receives a watercolor painting from Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron on Thursday on the eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Courtesy Steve Kudron

When Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron found out he was going to meet the second lady of the United States, he compiled a gift basket.

“I brought a little goody bag because that’s what I do,” Kudron said.

He knew that Karen Pence, wife to Vice President Mike Pence, was a watercolor artist. His gifts included a signed painting by Grand Lake artist Marjorie Cranston, watercolor postcards, fudge and a CelebriMoose from his business, the Quacker Gift Shop.

Pence paid a visit Thursday to the eastern entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park to speak on the mental health benefits of the outdoors and praise the work of national park employees across the country. Rocky was the second national park Pence has visited.

“It was a great honor to be able to represent the town of Grand Lake,” Kudron said.

The mayor described most of the people invited to the second lady’s visit as park rangers and nature conservancy folks. The US Deputy Secretary of Interior Katharine MacGregor was also there.

Pence mentioned during her remarks that President Donald Trump was looking forward to passing the Great American Outdoors Act, which would support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands like Rocky.

“The quote that touched me was when the second lady said that national parks are a place for Americans to heal,” Kudron said. “Because they’ve been cooped up for so long, it provides that space that everybody needs.”

Pence’s talk focused on the importance of mental health and conservation efforts, and she said that national parks are personally important to her because her children grew up visiting them. In fact, the first park the Pence family visited was Rocky 21 years ago on her daughter’s sixth birthday.

Pence’s daughter, who also visited the park on Thursday, turned 27 the same day.

While Kudron thought he would just hand his gifts to the second lady to be opened later, Pence found time to open the goody bag.

Second lady Karen Pence receives a CelebriMoose from Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron on Thursday at Rocky.
Courtesy Steve Kudron

“(Pence’s daughter) is a fan of fudge so it turned out to be a good birthday gift,” Kudron said.

While meeting the second lady was definitely a highlight, Kudron added that the day represented an improving relationship with Estes Park.

The two communities are gateways to Rocky and only separated from each other by the park itself, but Kudron thinks it’s been a long time since the towns have really connected.

Kudron said he had a good conversation with Estes Park Mayor Wendy Koenig, and they’re both planning to visit each other’s towns this summer.

Because of the way Rocky’s reservation system has created different traffic patterns through the park, Kudron is hopeful the towns’ relationship will lead to some new ideas on how to co-market the communities.


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