The Colorado National Monument will stay a monument - for now. A stagnating push for an upgraded park status adjourned temporarily, as election-year issues heat up.
"It won't get a park status this year," Ken Henry said. "It's on hold, but it's not going away."
Henry, a former Fruita mayor, co-chairs the Colorado National Monument/Park Study Committee. The state-funded, volunteer group was formed in June 2011 to research a broad set of issues surrounding an upgraded park status through public meetings and surveys. Sen. Mark Udall and Rep. Scott Tipton created this community group because an upgraded park designation needs Congressional approval to take effect.
The Colorado National Monument/Park Study Committee met with Udall during his July 4 visit to Grand Junction. And, though it wasn't a formal meeting, Henry said its results essentially put the park-status push on delay. The working committee is now in "hibernation mode," as Udall and Tipton haven't given further direction for continued research.
"We're recognizing the political reality right now," he said.
Henry, for one, also said putting the issue on hold is a good thing, as it will distance the park-status issue from political battles generally seen during election years. Plus, a little more time allows for more research if it's needed.
Monument vs. park issues locally include: Glade Park traffic, traffic congestion in general, water, light pollution, air quality, and a public concern that a park designation would mean Monument expansion. Survey results were split equally on the monument vs. park issue - 40 percent were for a national park status, 40 percent were against it, and 20 percent just didn't care. Roughly 400 comments were gathered from an online survey, and approximately 200 comments came from open houses held in the area.
While the monument/park study committee maintains its neutral position, a new group to promote positive aspects of a park upgrade may form by the end of the summer, Henry said. The research committee won't disband, but it definitely won't be part of a promotional push.
Another push to change the name of the monument - whether it becomes a park or not - may also be picking up steam.
Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland said she definitely supports a name change for the Colorado National Monument.
"My position, all along, has been that the name doesn't accurately reflect what it is," Rowland said. "I think a name change is good, but I'm not convinced the status of the park has to happen."
Rowland said she'd like Grand Junction's scenic gem to be, instead, called "Colorado Canyons."
Loki Gear founder and owner Seth Anderson also supports a monument name change, on top of a new park status. Anderson created his local outerwear brand in 1997, and he widely supports local recreation and sports activities.
"I grew up here and I've always been a big John Otto fan," Anderson said. "I like sharing his story and passion, his love for the monument with the world."
Anderson said attaining a park status would "be a big help for the local economy," but even a name change would help attract tourism dollars. "Colorado Towers" would be his pick.
People traveling through the area think the monument is a pile of rocks with a plaque on it, Anderson noted, not a nationally protected natural area featuring sandstone towers.