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 email@example.com or (970)260-5242. If you would like to visit their website, you can go to www.gjforparkstatus.com.
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.