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.