Opinion: It’s about time Colorado National Monument receives park status | PostIndependent.com

Opinion: It’s about time Colorado National Monument receives park status

Ken Johnson
Free Press Opinion Columnist
Colorado National Monument

Have we had enough self-inflicted delays and mind-numbing, false claims and comments that stall having Sen. Mark Udall and Rep. Scott Tipton get the Monument upgraded to a National Park?

I for sure have! Plus I am astonished at how opponents of the change have near zero appreciation for what a tourism boost it will be. As if “tourist” is a bad word.

Jeez, aren’t we all tourists at some point? The industry they malign is huge, clean and earns us dollars with virtually no cost. It wasn’t that long ago the entire Western Slope put both money and mouth into Club 20’s “Friendly Native” program. Tourist dollars grew astonishingly.

Our own lifestyle changed for the better, too.

So let’s quit making up nonsense about what a bad idea is because it’s a great idea. The sky is not going to fall and wipe out the valley with a name change.

Frankly, most of us are tired of the absurd objections to (my and John Otto’s choice) Colorado Canyons National Park or the currently proposed name, Rimrock National Park.

Are we supposed to believe in open-mouthed astonishment that former Representative Scott McInnis found true religion after he left office? While in Congress he got two National Parks designated for Colorado. He now warns making the Monument into the nation’s 60th National Park will be a disaster.

Yeah, sure.

Two years ago Rep. Tipton helped create the nation’s 59th Park; Pinnacles, the 9th one in California. So he knows a lot about National Parks.

Look up Pinnacles. It was named a Monument by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1908. It covered 2,080 acres.

It’s in the rugged country east of Soledad, which claims jobs and some fame by being home to a big state prison.

On Jan. 10, 2013 it became a National Park; land acquisitions bit by bit over 114 years expanded it into 26,000 acres, including 7,900 added by President Bill Clinton.

It’s rough country. Unlike our Monument, there is no road through the Park.


If Pinnacles qualified, Colorado National Monument doubly qualifies!

Former Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo recently wrote The Sentinel with multiple facts giving strong support for the overdue Park status.

Anzelmo has been with the Park Service for 35 years, and is a monumental stickler for knowing facts and following the rules. She has scant tolerance for blather.


• If the Monument is legislated as a National Park, there will be greater national and international interest in the superlative landscape and visitor activities available throughout the Grand Valley, with the nation’s newest National Park as the primary draw for travelers who specifically seek to visit America’s National Parks. An added bonus — the Monument’s awe-inspiring canyons and rock faces being both visible and proximate to busy Interstate 70 is a guarantee that visitors traversing I-70 will be drawn to leave the highway to explore it. The other vital link to growing national and international tourism is the fact that there is a regional commercial jet airport here.


• No change in the Class II air quality standard in place under the Clean Air Act of 1976. This law does not require new national parks or their adjacent communities to have only Class I air quality. As a matter of fact, this same law applies to the nation’s public lands, including the BLM McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area (NCA), also a Class II air quality area just like Colorado National Monument. Yet, when the McInnis NCA was being established, there was none of this misinformation propagated to scare locals about what this would mean to the community if the NCA came into being.

• No change for Glade Park’s public right of way on the four miles of Rim Rock Drive from the east entrance of Colorado National Monument to the DS Road.

• No change for the Monument’s boundaries. No implications for McInnis Canyons NCA, despite what some opponents keep stating, including Scott McInnis, who as a former U.S. congressman and current candidate for Mesa County Board of Commissioners should know better. (That would be true for lots of the misinformation currently being spread to oppose the National Park designation.)

• No change for any valid or existing water rights, including for the city of Fruita.

Anzelmo closed by pointing out that more than 100 years ago, John Otto tried very hard for years to see a National Park. Congress came very close to creating the Colorado Canyons National Park in 1910. Congress dawdled, so President Taft chose to protect the lands by proclaiming Colorado National Monument on May 24, 1911.

Can we agree with her that it’s time for Sen. Mark Udall and Congressman Scott Tipton to bring John Otto’s dream of a National Park to fruition? Seems like 103 years ought to be enough talking time.

GJ Free Press columnist Ken Johnson is founder of the Grand Junction Free Press and former owner/publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He spends his time between the Grand Valley and California.

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