Colorado National Monument makes Millions, Park Status Would Add More




Gretel Daugherty

Deanna Benzschawel of Sheboygan, Wis., admires the view Monday from Cold Shivers Point on Colorado National Monument. Benzschawel was touring the monument with her daughter Leah Cabot, who moved to Grand Junction from Pueblo two weeks ago.

Through boom and bust the Colorado National Monument has been an economic staple of the Grand Valley, right alongside our historic orchards and our growing wine industry.  It’s a place people clearly want to see and yet every single day visitors who fly into our local airport or travel I-70 (particularly people on National Park tours) bypass our monument and valley and miss the unique in the world experiences it offers.  As a community we miss out on sales tax revenues that benefit, not tourism, but  our public schools, public safety, the maintenance of  our roads, bridges and infrastructure in addition to projects we love like the Avalon, Riverfront Project or Las Colonias and Matchett Parks.   
As tax payers we agree the city and county should spend money to promote the Grand Valley and  University and draw businesses through CMU,  the Grand Junction VCB and GJEP.    Many are beginning to realize a national park would help do all three, free, thanks to the instant international and national  exposure that follows national park status.  The March  2014 edition of Sunset Magazine  features a guide to America’s national parks, specifically featuring Rocky Mountain National Park.    Numerous national articles have featured Pinnacles NP  since Congress named it  America’s 59th National Park in January of 2013.  That kind of regular, large-scale publicity,  along with an instant home on Rand McNally maps which only feature national parks is advertising you’d be hard pressed to put  a figure on…and it’s free.  Every day we delay elevating the Colorado National Monument to the status it qualifies for as a national park is a day of wasted opportunity.  
 Congressman Scott Tipton can claim substantial credit for the undeniable  success of Pinnacles NP as he was on the  House committee that awarded it final approval just   last year.  GVR-Citizens for a National Park is so thrilled he is now able to introduce and carry similar legislation for his own voting  district in this current  legislative session and  keep his election night promise to create jobs for Western Colorado.  Thousands of local businesses and employees   are now counting on that promise. 
 Back in June of 2013  when Congressman Scott Tipton and Senator Mark Udall announced a local committee would create draft legislation to elevate the Colorado National Monument to a national park , Tipton rightly  told CBS 4in Denver, “It would draw more international visitors, would help the hospitality sector, the service sector, it would help an area where unemployment is too high.”   Mr. Tipton really knows what he’s talking about.    Many people don’t realize that at a very young age Congressman Scott Tipton founded  an impressive  business in Cortez,  selling American Indian pottery.  According to the Wall Street Journal,  Mesa Verde Indian Pottery and Mesa Verde Trading have become some of the best-known pottery firms in southwest Colorado’s Four Corners region .    Mesa Verde National Park  has supported Mr. Tipton’s  family and thousands  more like his for decades catering to the international and national tourists who flock to the World Heritage Site. 
We believe GVR-Citizens for a National Park’s many individual supporters including  Tillie Bishop, Tim Foster, Josh Penry, Warren Gore, Shane King,  Kristie Pollard, Bernie Buescher, Jamie Hamilton, Randall Cupp, Kat Rhein and businesses like Alpine Bank, Home Loan State Bank,  Gateway Canyons Resort,  Benges Shoe store,  Colterris Winery, Grand River Vineyards, CAVE,  Pollux, Bin 707,  Dos Hombres,  Springhill Suites by Marriott, Doubletree by Hilton, and  Haggle of Vendors along with every local municipality, local chambers, tourism boards, bicyclists, hikers and  thousands more residents  as a vital community are more than ready to “pipe up” as Mr. Tipton  suggested to offer the Monument  maximum protection as a national park.  We appreciate that the Congressman and  Senator Udall continue to work so hard to move this process to a quick and successful conclusion.   Our community eagerly awaits the announcement of draft legislation in the next two weeks.
A recent Daily Sentinel editorial points out that the modest 10-percent increase in visitors  it’s estimated  national park status  would bring the Monument over time may not be a panacea to the current fragile economic recovery in the Grand Valley… but there’s no question it would help.  If Pinnacles National Park in California,  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park or Great Sand Dunes National Park here in Colorado are any gauge, it’s clear,  park status will finally  recognize the Monument’s history and qualifications, offer a measurable economic benefit  and  best of all, greatest protection of the pristine nature and  solitude we all cherish.
The article  below ,by Gary Harmon, ran in the  Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Tuesday, March 4 ,  2014.  We reprint it here along with photo (above) by photographer  Gretel Daugherty with the express permission of and thanks to the publisher.

Study: Scenery is greenery

Monument generated $26.5M in single year




By Gary Harmon
Monday, March 3, 2014

Colorado National Monument generated more than $26.5 million in economic activity in the Grand Valley in 2012, a National Park Service study released Monday said.

Another study released the same day said the 16-day government shutdown cost gateway communities near national parks, such as Fruita and Grand Junction, more than $414 million in visitor spending.

The shutdown study didn’t single out the effects on Colorado National Monument of the closure of the parks, but it did peg overall attendance in 2013 at a little more than 409,000, about 45,000 less than the level of visitation the Park Service logged in 2012.

The 2012 visitation figure reflected local efforts to promote the spires, canyons and red-rock walls of the 20,000-acre monument overlooking the Grand Valley, said Barbara Bowman, manager of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau.

“It demonstrates the power of having a unit of the National Park Service in your back yard,” Bowman said. “We’ve worked hard to promote the monument.”

The back of Bowman’s business card, in fact, shows an iconic photograph of the monument. The back of the business card that Bowman’s boss, Debbie Kovalik, carries shows the wine country of Palisade. Kovalik is the director of economic, convention, and visitor services for Grand Junction.

Even though the VCB leans heavily on the description of the valley as “Colorado’s wine country,” “We always lead with the monument,” Bowman said.

If the monument were to be designated a national park, it might be able to capture a significant international market, Bowman said, noting that 26 international tours a year arrive at Grand Junction Regional Airport and take buses directly to national parks in Utah without stopping to take in the monument that overlooks their route through the Grand Valley.

The monument also supports 356 jobs in the Grand Valley, the Park Service report said.

Nationwide, Park Service venues, including parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites and other locations, generate $26.75 billion, the report said.

It also highlighted direct spending of $14.7 billion by 283 million visitors in communities within 60 miles of park sites.

Overall, the Park Service generates $10 for every $1 spent on the agency, according to the peer-reviewed report drafted by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Interior Department officials noted that economists with the survey were given the task of gauging the economic effects of Park Service venues after the author of previous reports died. Direct comparisons between the 2012 and previous years’ surveys aren’t directly comparable because of the different methodologies, officials said.


Below  are links to the  March 2014 issue of Sunset Magazine  featuring a national park guide and several recent articles on the newly named Pinnacles National Park.


Colorado National Monument to National Park Gains Ground


Below is the latest Daily Sentinel article, by Gary Harmon and photographs by the talented Chris Tomlinson (reprinted with the Publisher’s express permission) regarding national park status.  Our sources tell us the 5 member committee Congressman Scott Tipton and Senator Mark Udall  appointed has signed off on final draft legislation and that draft is currently under review.  Grand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park can not thank  the committee and everyone who has signed the recent petition and shared it with family and friends enough.   Nor is it possible to express the depth of our  appreciation to the many local leaders, businesses and organizations who took the time to study this issue and weigh in with full support.  We are closer to national park status than at any time in the past 107 years when John Otto submitted the first petition for a national park.  We fully believe Congressman Scott Tipton and Senator Mark Udall will not fail the Grand Valley, but will announce official legislation to elevate the Colorado National Monument to a national park.  This is about our history and future and about recognizing our park with the title it deserves.   


Caption:  A visitor to Colorado National Monument stops at Independence Monument overlook to make a photograph Friday afternoon.The monument high country is 2,000 feet above the Grand Valley and is 32 square miles large.With the help of John Otto the monument was made a national monument in 1911.Otto was named the park’s caretaker, a job he held until 1927 with a salary of $1 a month.
 A visitor to Colorado National Monument stops at Independence Monument overlook to make a photograph Friday afternoon.The monument high country is 2,000 feet above the Grand Valley and is 32 square miles large.With the help of John Otto the monument was made a national monument in 1911.Otto was named the park’s caretaker, a job he held until 1927 with a salary of $1 a month.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Elevating Colorado National Monument to a national park could reverse the economic slide of the Grand Valley, the chairman of the Junior College Baseball World Series said.

“With what I consider the slow death of western Colorado, it’s time to shake things up,” said Jamie Hamilton, who also chairs Home Loan State Bank. “We have to do something to shake up this economy. It’s something to drive additional tourism. It just makes sense.”

Backers of the upgrade of Colorado National Monument to a national park need to pipe up, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton said.

He and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., are waiting to hear back from a committee drafted to write a bill promoting Colorado National Monument to a national park.

“Grand Junction, Fruita, Mesa County, we’ve got to see public support for it,” Tipton said Friday.

Tipton’s and Udall’s staffs have had several talks about the monument, but they have yet to see the bill drafted by the committee.

“We’ve heard they are making progress and we’re hoping to see the fruits of their work,” Udall spokesman Mike Saccone said.

An online petition, meanwhile, has topped 500 signatures in favor of a national park and signatures are being collected at several locations in downtown Grand Junction, and elsewhere.

Signatures of the online petition range from as far away as Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in a recent addition to signers representing several states, from California to Illinois.

The petition is at

Udall made a promotion of the monument one of his first priorities in 2010, when he called for national park status for the monument in his first visit to Grand Junction as a newly elected senator.

As chairman of the Senate subcommittee on national parks, Udall is in a position to press a bill forward.

Udall and Tipton last year appointed a five-member committee to draft a measure that would give the 20,000-acre monument national park status and they had hoped to have legislation prepared by January.



Call for National Park Legislation by March

The Grand Junction Visitors and Convention Bureau asked  Grand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park  to update their board  Tuesday, December 10, 2013 on the forward  status of the national park.  This was the update and call to action:

“Back in June of 2013  U.S.  Senator Mark Udall and U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton, stood,  literally arm in arm,   with Independence rock and a perfect Colorado blue sky  frameless behind them  to announce something almost unprecedented.   They had appointed a five member committee of local citizens  to draft community driven legislation to elevate the Colorado National Monument to a national park.  At the time U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton rightly  told CBS4 in Denver ‘It would draw more international visitors, would help the hospitality sector, the service sector, it would help an area where unemployment is too high.’

The goal at that time  was to complete the  draft legislation by August.  It’s December now, so a little bit behind schedule but then again, appropriate because this is the holiday season and there is no greater gift our community could receive than a national park.

It was not too long ago,  that very exceptional group of people—the committee of five–  handed legislators their initial draft,  after investing an entire summer’s worth of considerable thought, constructive discussion and personal time away from work and family.  Since then, Senator Mark Udall and Congressman Tipton have done more than their due diligence to put that legislation under critical review in Washington D.C..

Those of us with Grand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park  would like to offer sincerest thanks to the appointed  committee of five  who duly laid aside any political or private agendas to put the Grand Valley community and our magnificent canyons first.    Glade Park rancher Warren Gore, Kristi Pollard whose experience regarding oil and gas concerns was invaluable,  to Michael Burke of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce,  to Jamie Lummis, of Moody’s Insurance who is also a member of GJEP and represented  the local cycling community, and to Ginny McBride who always faithfully represents the Colorado National Monument.  The committee is now arranging to meet in just days  to take a final look at the legislation, review and revise and then make it available to the public.

U.S.  Rep.  Scott Tipton and  U.S. Rep. Mark  Udall share an enormous concern that the Grand Valley continues to struggle economically while eastern Colorado continues to grow and prosper.   I can only assure you they have been working extremely hard behind the scenes to ensure our community driven draft legislation undergoes a meticulous review by their staff, so that when it reaches their committee’s for final  review, it will have every chance of successful passage, just as Pinnacles National Park,  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park passed before it.

U.S. Rep. Mark Udall’s father first began his family legacy  of preservation by helping to create some fantastic  national park lands in Utah.   Mr. Udall  will continue that family legacy with the Colorado National Monument  to national park proposal and others to create national monuments.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s family knows better than most the economic impact of a national park.  Tipton founded  an impressive  business in Cortez decades ago,  selling American Indian pottery.  According to the Wall Street Journal,  Mesa Verde Indian Pottery and Mesa Verde Trading have become some of the best-known pottery firms in southwest Colorado’s Four Corners region .    Mesa Verde National Park  has supported Mr. Tipton’s  family and thousands  more like his for decades catering to the international and national tourists who flock to the World Heritage Site.

Also, when towns around Pinnacles National Monument were suffering an enormous economic downturn, their communities lobbied Washington extensively trying to persuade them to grant a long time dream of a national park.   Mr. Tipton was on the committee that approved  the elevation of Pinnacles National Monument to a national park and helped address that area’s economic crisis.  One year after it’s designation Pinnacles  has seen a 33 percent increase in visitors which equated to an additional 90 thousand visitors this year over last.   Today Mr. Tipton  has the chance to do the same here in Mesa County, for  our canyons, our residents and  our businesses in  his very  own district.

Today  in those California towns near Pinnacles National Park (as in Montrose near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park) the immediate international recognition, branding,  and foreign tourism has become a vital part of healing a stagnant economy.    The same is true to our south in Montrose.  When local leaders there  work to recruit new business Jenny Sopsic,  Executive Director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce  tell me the national park is their number one asset.   Montrose sales and use tax revenues, along with lodging tax revenues (unlike Mesa County) are up and growing.   The county and city have attracted so many big box and smaller new businesses Montrose residents who used to  regularly shop in our town and visit our mall during the holidays…according to Sopsic now stay in Montrose to shop.

You’ve read the latest statistics showing lodging tax and total sales and tax revenues are down in Mesa County,  that  our foreclosure rate remains the second highest of Colorado’s 12 metro areas, second only to Pueblo.   Mesa County unemployment still hovers near 8 percent.   You’ve read about the cuts to the much loved  Riverfront Project and GJEP and public safety and other vital programs we care about.    In the first week of December (2013) the Grand Junction Chamber  of Commerce also  released  this  Economic Survey for the year 2013:


1.   72 percent of  250 respondents  still view the local economy as weak or extremely weak, not a significant change from last year.


2.  41 percent will continue to delay capital investments for the next six months because  of the economy.

3.   14 percent expect to cut some employees.


4.  29 percent are now less optimistic than last year.


And most telling of all:


5.   49 percent believe it will be 2015 or later before we see the economy BEGIN to recover.



It’s fully within the realm of possibility, once the appointed local committee releases their draft legislation,  our representatives could use their expertise to  officially introduce this legislation after the January session begins and with due diligence put it before the two deciding committees to which they belong before April and spring thaw in the rockies.

While we deeply respect the measured, entirely  community driven and highly thorough approach our legislators have taken, after 107 years of on again, off again  discussion and exhaustive review within our community, we believe our  representatives have all the information they need to move forward.   Our community has waited long enough.  Now, that hard won draft legislation exists we call on Senator Udall and Congressman Tipton to act with a sense of urgency to introduce official legislation to elevate our monument to a national park in the upcoming session.

There is indisputable  historic community precedent for this effort.   Unlike the vast majority of U.S.  regions who would love to have a national park,  the Colorado National Monument  meets every exacting requirement for park status.  Those are the top reasons the CNM should be elevated to a national park but  as numerous realtors, builders, restaurant, hotel,  and winery owners anticipating park status tell us,  the instant national and international exposure that comes with park status would also help lift  them and our entire economy out of the current morass of a lingering recession.  Not just  the Grand Valley  but  all of the struggling Western Colorado towns surrounding us  would benefit from increased  tourism.

Per the VCB’s request, I’ve written a letter your  members can forward to  our representatives asking them  to act with urgency, foresight and leadership and introduce legislation in the current session.

Representative Scott Tipton and  Senator Mark Udall together have led the Grand Valley community  on this journey for three long years now.  Two committees and reams of positive data later,   it’s  time to get it done.   Doing so will  ensure that during their limited time in office, both men leave a lasting  legacy sure to recognize and protect a magnificent landscape and  at the same time positively  benefit  generations of residents and businesses for years  to come.”

Legislation to Upgrade CNM to National Park may come in January


Measure to upgrade monument to park may come in January:

Article re-printed with  thanks to reporter Gary Harmon  and permission from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

By Gary Harmon


Legislation to upgrade Colorado National Monument to a national park could be  introduced as soon as January, supporters of the move said Tuesday, hailing the prospect as a much needed economic boon.   “We could be a shining star” in the regional economic picture iwth the prosepect of a national park overlooking the Grand Valley, said Theresa High, owner of High Country Orchards and Colterris winery, both in Palisade.

With the prospect ofa bill approaching, High and Terri Chappell urged the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau board on Wednesday to gather support fromt he tourism industry for the effort.  Chappell ticked off a series of bleak economic indicators for the Grand Valley, highlighting a finding that 49 percent of respondents to a Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce survey said they didn’t anticipate economic improvements before 2015.

Promoting the 20-thousand acre Colorado National Monument to a national park could reverse much of that pessimism, Chappell said.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton,  R-Colo., and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., this summer appointed a five member committee to draft a bill and that committee’s work is nearly done, Chappell said.

“When people in our town hear the detail (in the bill) they’re going to be extremely gratified by the work of the committee, ”  Chappell said.

Glade Park access was a sticking point residents voiced amid fears that national park status could jeaopardize their ability to use Rim Rock Drive to reach DS Road from the east entrance of the park.

Congressional sources said the staffs of Tipton and Udall are to get together this week to discuss the measure.

With the prospect of a bill approaching, tourism and travel promotin organizations need only to be notified to gear up support for the bill, Barbara Bowman, manager of teh VCB, said.  “They will step forward on our behalf.”.  Bowman said.

Look Who’s Talking…

High Country News recently allowed two contributors to comment on national park status for the Colorado National Monument.  While Charles Quimby’s statements were issued as a “con” in comments after he states that he has not said the monument should NOT (his emphasis) be a national park.  We’re so glad!  Below is a link to those articles.  I should say we always appreciate the opportunity to address the facts regarding this issue.   While we fully disagree with Quimby’s  arguments for reasons stated in comments below the article, we absolutely support his right to express his opinion.

Help the Colorado National Monument Win 100 Grand

Coca Cola is running a contest that could make a national park unit 100-thousand dollars richer!  The Colorado National Monument is the natural choice because we are the only park with the “real thing”… red rock coke bottles!  Vote here and take note,  if you read close there are ways you can get extra votes for your park.  Spread the word!coke bottles

Pinnacles National Park Rocking to Success

The following article appeared May 31, 2013 in USA Today.  You can find it in full  at the following link.  As we have said would be the case for the Colorado National Monument should it be re-designated as a national park, no rules or regulations regarding Pinnacles have changed, simply the name.  But! Because of the name change new tourists are finding their way to Pinnacles and helping local wineries and the economy in general as they explore the nation’s 59th national park and it’s surrounding towns.  Pinnacles was officially named a national park in January.  If the Colorado National Monument is re-designated it would become the nation’s 60th national park.


pinnacles rocks article


Local Who Honored John Otto, Weighs in on National Park Status

A shortened version of the following editorial by Michael O’ Boyle  ran in the Daily Sentinel Tuesday, June 11, 2013 and is reprinted here in full with the publisher’s permission.  O’Boyle helped lead a small contingent of Grand Valley residents on a monumental quest to properly commemorate John Otto and his devotion to our red rock canyons.   A July 2008  “Fencepost” article by Margaret Melloy Guziak described it this way:

“In 2002, Michael O’Boyle, a local resident, a long-time admirer of John Otto, and owner of “Eagletree Tours”, conceived the idea of scheduling a trip to the California cemetery to honor Otto 50 years after his death. Dave Fishell and Mike got the support of the NPS, the CO National Monument Assn and several other local businesses to raise money for a marker for Otto’s grave. The trip was a “GO”.

Lyle Nichols, local prominent artist, located a 3′ x 3′ x 9′, 700 pound Lyons sandstone, shaped like the Independence Rock, for the top. The 3,400 pound, Precambrian stone, for the base was trucked from Escalante Canyon to Nichols’ art residence, where he shaped it into 5′ x 2.5′ x 2′ tall size. It was important to everyone that it be made from Colorado rocks that were part of the canyons Otto loved the most.

 “We wanted to give tribute to this American hero and what he represents and to increase the awareness of the Colorado National Monument. We wanted to thank John for giving us the Colorado National Monument.”  “



June 11, 2013 Editorial



Well, here we are, citizens of Mesa County at the crossroads faced with another decision. Do we make Colorado National Monument a national park or not?   Over a hundred years ago John Otto made his decision. One of his famous quotes says it all, “I came here and found these canyons, and they feel like the heart of the world to me.  I’m going to stay and build trails and promote this place, because it should be a national park.”   Otto was a man of his word. He stayed for about 20 years and built trails and promoted the place while basically volunteering his services as the Monument’s first custodian.

So, we know for sure Otto believed it should be a national park. I believe it should be a national park and there are plenty of others who feel the same way.  According to Scott Tipton, at his recent town hall meeting in Grand Junction, a third of the public thinks it should be a national park, a third thinks it should be left as is and a third don’t know.  If the third that don’t know just don’t care, that’s as good as saying leave it as is.

If you don’t know but DO care, PLEASE get involved. Start reading and researching. Ask questions, study the facts and talk with others about the pro’s and con’s.  It would be a real shame if this legislation failed because a third of the people just didn’t care.  John Otto would turn over in his grave.

Twenty some years ago a group of local citizens looked at the Colorado River running through town and said “Let’s clean up the river, let’s clean up all the junk along the banks and make it a nice place”.   Many people said,  “ Oh, that’s impossible, way too monumental of a project.” Visitors driving in from the South would cross the bridge over the Colorado River and say, “Hey, we made it to Grand Junkyard!”  Thanks to those citizens with vision (now called the Grand Junction and Mesa County River Front Commission) visitors don’t say that anymore.

Back in the early 90’s mountain bikers from the Eastern Slope would drive 6 hours to ride the world class trails in Moab. They would reach the Grand Valley and say, “ Hey, we’re in Bland Junction, only 2 hours to Moab”.   Then a group of bicycle people from Fruita said “Hey, let’s compete with Moab. We have just as much great terrain as they do”.   Many people, including myself said, “Oh that’s impossible, way too monumental of a project. We will never compete with Moab”   Now, thanks to the vision of those fat tire gear heads, working with the BLM and the local townships, riders from the Eastern Slope drive only 4 hours and enjoy the world class trails right here in the Grand Valley.

Are we proud of our riverfront corridor and the network of mountain bike trails around the Grand Valley?   You bet we are!   Was the effort to create these things worth it?  Without a doubt!   Who is against the cultural and economic benefits that we receive from these two particular projects?    Opponents to the national park effort site traffic problems.  So, are we opposed to JUCO and Country Jam?   Should we never build another subdivision because more people will move in and traffic will increase?

If the Monument is made a national park, it will join an elite family of other world class parks in the vicinity.   We will be at the crossroads of Black Canyon and Mesa Verde to the South and Arches & Canyonlands to the West.  It will be a source of pride and good will in our community and it will contribute to a strong and diverse economy.     It is up to us, we can do something monumental or we can do nothing.



Michael O’Boyle

Free Press Editorial Backs National Park Designation for Colorado National Monument

This editorial appeared in the May 24, edition of the Grand Junction Free Press.  Ken Johnson is a original  founder of the Free Press and former Publisher/Owner of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.  Johnson continues to devote his time to many local worthy causes including the “Legends” project which created the impressive John Otto statue (as well as other bronzed  local legends)  on Main Street.




independence mon in light


Do you think Colorado Canyons National Park sounds like a great name for one of America’s most interesting natural wonders?

That COULD be a name for our current Colorado National Monument.

And seeing “National Park” in the name would have made the late John Otto incredibly happy. Otto, as everyone knows as the “father” of the Monument, wanted it to be a National Park. He circulated a petition for it in 1907. Colorado didn’t have much political clout in those days so the project lagged. And lagged and lagged.

Otto labored in the canyons building trails and labored in the towns promoting this beautiful gift that he knew was a national treasure.

Otto finally prevailed because, despite Congress, President Taft could designate those astonishing canyons and cliffs a National Monument, which he did in 1911. It was Otto’s second choice, better than none.

The consequences are that, through the years, the Monument has been a wonderful local asset, but it has become even more a “second class citizen” during the 102 years it has been part of the National Park Service.

Simply, today the cache of being a National PARK has led to major “Park to Park” tourism and visits. There is no “Monument to Monument” trail.

Senator Mark Udall and Congressman Scott Tipton will carry the bill once the community agrees on the idea. They will be just as successful as then-Congressman Scott McInnis was by carrying the bill for Black Canyon National Park back in 1999. There have been no reported problems with the Park status.

The Great Sand Dunes, a Monument the same Hoover 1930’s vintage as Black Canyon, became a National Park in 2000-2004.  Again, Congressman McInnis did the work in Washington.

Mesa Verde National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are among the most popular national parks in the nation and when our Monument becomes Colorado’s fifth national park within arms reach of the other four and Utah’s popular national parks we will become part of the largest clusters of national parks in the nation.   Doesn’t it feel like it’s overdue?

Otto himself says it best:

“I came here last year and found these canyons, and they feel like the heart of the world to me. I’m going to stay and build trails and promote this place, because it should be a national park.”

All he asked was for the proper national recognition for those ancient canyons and towering monoliths, his continuing dream.

Park designation has tons of support once again.  If you go to the Grand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park website at , you’ll find that Terri Chappell is coordinating the grassroots group.

“It’s a really, really big deal to land a national park,” said Chappell, citing several of the economic advantages that backers expect to see with an upgrade in status. So far, more than  360 businesses have signed up to support the effort, Chappell said.

Right now, it has solid support from Grand Junction, Fruita, the Grand Junction and Palisade Chambers of Commerce, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and a plethora of individuals who “get it”.

On the website you can read the various documents:

“Grand Junction Chamber re-Ignites Historic Support of NP”

“Grand Junction Economic Partnership Endorses National Park”

“GJ City Council Gives Unanimous Support to John Otto’s Dream”

Josh Penry wrote, “For this great and glorious God-given gift, National Park status is an idea whose time has come. Let’s hope this is the year Udall and Tipton can make it happen.”

Tourism is big money for all of Colorado and the West Slope. I happened to be Club 20 President years ago when we launched the “Friendly Native” program to recognize that the entire West Slope needed tourism as our strongest and easiest industry.

The reason’s haven’t changed: you don’t need schools or more sewers or more services or more taxes to take care of visitors; you need smiles and courtesy and, for the Grand Valley, a National Park.

Down at 2nd and Main St. John Otto sits atop Rowdy, peering West through his telescope. He’s in bronze now, a Legends sculpture. But you can almost see him smiling.

Thanks for coordinating this, Terri. Let’s do it now. It will be the 60th National Park in America.

Grand Valley Teen Investigates National Park Status

caprock academy logo

National Monument to National Park

By Drew Koch

 Reprinted with permission from The Eagle’s Quill Newspaper/Caprock Academy

“I found this place and it feels like the heart of the world to me. I’m going to stay and build trails and promote this place, because it should be a national park,” John Otto stated when he first came to Colorado and stepped foot on the rocky canyons of what is now the Colorado National Monument. John Otto was a vagabond and wanted to change Colorado’s canyons into a national monument, then a national park.

In 1906, John Otto began by making a petition, collecting signatures and having fundraisers to promote the territory he admired so much, his determination was to make this place known to all who came across Colorado, as well as the people who inhabited it. “Some folks think I’m crazy but I want to see this scenery opened up to all people,” Otto said as he wrote letters to Washington politicians to get his ongoing movement recognized. John Otto had a deep admiration for the canyon when he first stepped a foot upon it, he fell in love; he lived amongst the rural canyon, made trails and named the rock configurations after heroes he knew.

Citizens would come by and gaze at the monument; Otto would stop for photographers and convert the citizens into activists of his cause. Otto finally had a break through, and with his boldness and the people behind him, President William Howard Taft on May 24th, 1911 signed a proclamation making the canyon into a national monument.

Sixteen years later, Otto retired as the monument Cerberus and he moved to California leaving his precious monument behind. John Otto then died June 19th, 1952.

Coming back to the present day, citizens of Colorado are still fighting for the National Monument. Caprock parent, Mrs. Terri Chappell is a firm activist to Otto’s ongoing cause. Mrs. Chappell is a part of theGrand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park (GVCNP), which is an organization to help push for the monument to get the title of a national park. “Evidence shows that creating a national park would help our struggling economy, help attract high tech, high paying companies to the area and just as importantly realize the dream John Otto and our founding community first began 106 years ago” Mrs. Chappell said on behalf of the benefits of having a national park.

Mrs. Chappell and the advocates behind GVCNP are trying to reach out to the community and get people to recognize Otto’s efforts. “Creating a national park is among the most democratic endeavors a community can accomplish.  Whether you are five or 105 years old; your voice matters. Our children are the future. Creating a national park is really for students and someday the incredible thing is that all of you have the once in a life time chance to look at the facts and if you support it, sign your name to the petition or send a letter. Someday, you could point to the national park and say, “I helped make that.  I contacted legislators and signed a petition and made John Otto’s dream come true!”  Mrs. Chappell also commented on her personal experience with the monument and her first encounter, “My personal connection to the monument was first forged at age eleven. I bridled my red Welsh/Quarter horse, and summoned a friend with a far fancier and faster black Saddle bred. Together we crossed Broadway, then reaching open ground we galloped hell bent for leather, alongside the entirely undeveloped base of our grand monument, whooping as we went, just as we imagined Ute children before us in a far more distant age may have done.  It was a feeling of absolute freedom I will never forget.” When asked about her role, Mrs. Chappell stated “My own role has simply been as a volunteer to carry out extensive research, make presentations to local organizations, and coordinate social media. One element we are missing is the voice of young people in the valley, and as I said this is really all about them.” Mrs. Chappell hopes to get younger generations involved in this movement. “If you can help create a national park, what a powerful lesson it is to know that your voice could make a difference on other issues in your lifetime, participation in our government is crucial.”

Other supporters of this cause are Grand Junction’s own The Daily Sentinel newspaper. The Daily Sentinel has been behind this cause since 1907. The Daily Sentinel Managing Editor Laurena Mayne Davis edited Monumental Majesty. This book describes the National Monument, the unique monoliths, and the 100 years it has been here. “I learned how to enjoy the seasons of the National Monument, seeing the flowers bloom, and noticed different aspects of the monument.” Monumental Majesty was the 100 year anniversary of the monument residing here in Colorado. “This book contains aspects and pictures from citizens who have come across the National Monument.” After the book was published, Mrs. Mayne Davis made a promise to go hiking on the National Monument more. “A National Park will invite tourists here to stay, this will also benefit businesses and help our community grow. “

“Strike while the iron is hot,” voiced Tillman “Tillie” Bishop on behalf of the National Monument. Mr. Bishop served as Colorado’s County Commissioner and State Senator, “People should realize that the National Monument is the most foreign monolith, the National Monument should be memorialized.” The National Monument will bring tourists in the state of Colorado, and will tribute to the revenue businesses depend upon.” William Howard Taft created six monuments, and the National Monument is one of them. “It has been a long process to get through; we have two sponsors, House Representative, Scott Tipton and U.S Senator for Colorado, Mark Udall. What we really need is support from the citizens, the National Monument is an attraction to come see.” Mr. Bishop is an active supporter of the National Monument as well as GVCNP.

Another active supporter of the name change is former Secretary of Colorado, Bernie Buescher. Mr. Buescher grew up in Grand Junction; he would hike the National Monument when he was a kid with family and friends. Mr. Buescher also led tours across the Monument and showed its beauty to visitors. “I have always been involved with the Monument in one way or another.  Even as I write this email from my office in Denver, hanging above my desk is a beautiful picture taken by JoAnn Moon showing hikers above one of the canyons of the Monument.” Mr. Buescher believes that the name change will dramatically affect the National Monument. “The Monument is a treasure, not just for the residents of Mesa County, but for all of the citizens of the Country.  Changing the designation to a National Park will enhance the visibility of the area all across the Country and in time, more people will be able to enjoy and appreciate this gem.”

If you would like to know information or would like to become a supporter of this organization, you can contact Terri Chappell at or (970)260-5242. If you would like to visit their website, you can go to


Note from GVRCNP:  We applaud Drew Koch for her professionalism in finding this story, researching the facts and conducting some great interviews.  Drew attends Caprock Academy High School and free-lances professionally as a sports photographer for which she was just honored.  We think Drew is an impressive young journalist on her way to a great career.  We appreciate that Drew was able to bring the perspective of  a Grand Valley teens  into view, as this entire effort for national park status truly is for and about our future generations.

Welcome to Grand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park