All posts by GVR Citizens for a National Park

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.”  “

john-otto-grave-stone

 

June 11, 2013 Editorial

DO SOMETHING MONUMENTAL OR DO NOTHING

 

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 www.gjforparkstatus.com , 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 gvrcnp@gmail.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.

Historic Meeting puts Colorado National Monument on Track to National Park Status

TIPTON UDALL COKE BOTTLES PIC 

RESIDENTS TO WRITE PARK BILL

(reprinted with permission from the Grand Jct. Daily Sentinel)

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, left, D-Colo., and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., announce Saturday that a five-member committee of Grand Junction-area residents will draft legislation for upgrading Colorado National Monument to a national park. Udall and Tipton are shown on the monument after meeting with the committee.


060913_1a_CNM_to_Park_dah

Dean Humphrey

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, left, D-Colo., and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., announce Saturday that a five-member committee of Grand Junction-area residents will draft legislation for upgrading Colorado National Monument to a national park. Udall and Tipton are shown on the monument after meeting with the committee.


060913_monument_legislation.1

Staff

By Gary Harmon
Saturday, June 8, 2013

A committee of Grand Valley residents will begin writing a bill intended to confer park status on Colorado National Monument with the hope that drafting legislation will win over some who have withheld support.

There is no deadline for a committee of five to come up with a bill, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said Saturday after meeting with committee members near the visitor center and overlook into Monument Valley.

The committee is to draft a measure that will be “at its core, community-driven,” Tipton said, noting that he had been presented with petitions opposing monument status. As legislation is written to address local issues, some on the fence or in opposition might join in support of the bill, Tipton said.

Udall said the committee will explore legislation that he hoped would bring the Grand Valley together on “this iconic landscape.”

Much of the support of park status for the monument has been couched in economic terms, such as encouraging greater visitation, and that aspect has obscured a major point, said Ginny McBride, chairwoman of the Colorado National Monument Association.

Colorado National Monument “truly is worthy of national-park designation,” McBride said.

McBride is a member of the executive committee, as are Glade Park rancher Warren Gore, Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Michael Burke, consultant and former congressional staffer Kristi Pollard, and Jamie Lummis, a member of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and the USA Pro Challenge bicycle race organizing committee.

Gore is the only member of the committee who served on a study committee that considered park status for more than a year, but which issued no recommendation.

Gore, who was active more than a decade ago in fending off plans by the Clinton administration to expand the monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906, said the issue of the monument’s status comes every 10 to 15 years and that it might be time to end that cycle.

“There is an opportunity here, maybe, to be proactive,” Gore said.

Conditional support

Park status for the monument has attracted support from Grand Valley chambers of commerce and municipalities, as well as the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, but the various organizations have made their support conditional on preserving the existing boundaries and air-quality status, and insulating industry, such as oil and gas, from threats based on their possible effects on the monument.

Another condition is that a local oversight committee have veto power over certain Park Service decisions, such as professional bike races along 23-mile Rim Rock Drive. Park Service rejections of the races have rankled supporters in the Grand Valley as the races have gone elsewhere.

Similar accommodations were reached with local governments in connection with turning Rocky Flats on the Front Range into a wildlife area, Pollard said.

Udall heads the Senate subcommittee that would deal with redesignation of the monument, and Tipton is a member of the House committee that would handle such a bill.

Park status opponents have cited fears that legislation could be gutted against the will of local backers.

If that happens, “The community is looking for you guys to put it back on the rails,” Burke said.

Burke agreed to join the committee because it needed a “voice of business,” he said.

Long process

Udall, Tipton and the committee members met Saturday in a room of the Stone House near the visitor center. Inside the room was a plaque marked “Let’s be #60.”

The National Park Service now manages 59 parks.

The initiative garnered the support of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, which includes former monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo, which said park designation “will more appropriately recognize the superlative landscape” and the geology and paleontology of the site.

There is no rush on legislation, Udall told the executive committee.

“It’s a long process to create a national park,” Udall said. “We’re going to proceed slowly and meticulously.”

Daily Sentinel Editorial on Monumental Myths

 

sentinel logo

Former Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Publisher Walter Walker was among the first staunch supporters of creating a national park within our red rock canyons.  That was more than a century ago, in 1907, when John Otto circulated the first petition for a national park.  It has been apparent for a very long time creating a national park lies in the best interest of our community.   GVRCNP appreciates and thanks the Daily Sentinel under current publisher Jay Seaton for its continued commitment to support the facts and our community as we strive to finally make Otto’s life long dream a reality.

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Editorial: Monumental myths

Reprinted with permission from  The Daily Sentinel
Sunday, May 26, 2013

As thousands of people from around the country gather in the Grand Valley this week for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, it’s a safe bet many of these visitors — who may see or hear references to Colorado National Monument — will have little clue what the monument offers.

Is it a statue or a granite slab with names carved onto it? People who have an inkling that a national monument is an area managed by the National Park Service are likely to view it as a sort of minor-league national park.

All of that is understandable, based on the publicity national parks receive compared to monuments. It’s a big reason why local groups are pushing to have Colorado National Monument designated as a national park.

Less easy to fathom is why so many people in this community continue to believe that changing the monument to a national park will significantly alter the way the area is managed and will thereby adversely affect the community. This despite two years of studies and public statements clarifying emphatically that this will not be the case.

However, given recent news reports, we believe it is important to highlight once again these facts.

✔ Most importantly, under federal laws passed over decades, there can be no change in management if the land is changed from a monument to a park. National parks are managed under the same set of rules and regulations as national monuments. There is not a higher standard for parks.

✔ The air quality status of the monument would not change, and there would not be stricter rules to threaten activities such as agriculture in the Grand Valley. The national monument is currently designated as a Class 2 air quality area, and the Park Service has determined the area does not qualify for the more restrictive Class 1 designation.

✔ Designation as a park won’t allow the federal government to claim additional land. In fact, it would make it more difficult for a president to expand the boundaries. National monuments are established by executive order and can be expanded by executive order. National parks are established by Congress, and boundaries can only be changed through an act of Congress. No one is seeking to enlarge the current 20,534-acre footprint.

✔ Park status won’t change the access to Glade Park through the monument. That access was legally ratified in federal court many years ago, and will be reiterated in any park legislation.

✔ Estimates of how park designation will affect traffic vary. The best evidence is that overall traffic won’t increase just from the redesignation, but more visitors will come from other parts of the country and world, spending more time and money here. Traffic in the monument is expected to grow as the community grows, regardless of whether it becomes a park.

Since 1916, one set of laws has controlled both monuments and parks equally, meaning if there is a change to the way parks are regulated, that change will also equally affect monuments. So, any changes the National Park Service has in mind for its national parks will also equally affect Colorado National Monument — whether it’s a park or a monument.

Accordingly, why not choose the name that represents the top brand? Every JUCO visitor knows what a national park is.

Former Superintendent on National Park Designation: 2011

*Statement of Joan Anzelmo, Superintendent, Colorado National Monument
At Senator Mark Udall’s Community Meeting, February 23, 2011
Mesa State College, Grand Junction, CO
Colorado National Monument : “Where once only birds could fly”
In the age of John Muir, some 1000 miles from Yosemite Valley, a kindred spirit and fervent conservationist, John Otto, was dedicating himself to protecting and promoting the land that today we know as Colorado National Monument.
Otto built the first trails into this rugged landscape to reach the glorious red rock canyons. He climbed the steeply tall monoliths to post the American Flag from the highest vantage points he could reach. He surveyed the first road, Trail of the Serpent – 4 miles with 52 switchbacks and designated “the crookedest road in the world.” He dreamed of building a road high above the majestic cliffs and canyons where once only birds could fly.
Otto worked tirelessly with the communities of Grand Junction and Fruita advocating for the creation of a national park to protect the extraordinary geology of ancient canyons and towering monoliths. He wrote relentlessly to Congress and the President, championing the cause for creation of a national park in western Colorado. Draft bills were written to create the park but they languished in the halls of Congress. Ultimately, President Taft used the Antiquities Act to protect the lands through presidential proclamation and established Colorado National Monument on May 24, 1911.
Otto was advocating for national park protection of this stunning Colorado canyon country on the heels of the very first national parks being established by Congress in the late 1800s and early 1900s. As a matter of fact, Colorado National Monument was protected through its establishment as a national monument before Rocky Mountain National Park was established a full four years later in 1915.
The spirit of conservation and the intent to protect lands for a greater public good was flourishing in the western Colorado in the early 1900s, thanks in large part to John Otto. Today that spirit continues to flourish with renewed community efforts to consider designating Colorado National Monument as a national park.
A designation of Colorado National Monument as a national park would more appropriately recognize the national significance of the geological processes, paleontology, the diversity of the flora and fauna, the sacred use by indigenous peoples, and the more recent human history that played out here including the Civilian Conservation Corps work. The addition of new scientific knowledge provides a more comprehensive understanding of the national significance of the Monument and the importance of protecting it for the benefit of present and future generations.
National parks unite us as a country and gather us together around the globe. They tell our story as a people; the glory
and the shame, the triumphs and the tragedies. They celebrate America’s incomparable landscapes. They provide places for sublime peace and contemplation and places for adventurous exploration. Their reservoirs of scientific knowledge and discoveries are helping cure diseases, solve crimes and are recording the beginnings of the earth to the present day changes in our planet.
It is no wonder that Wallace Stegner coined the phrase: “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”
We need them now more than ever.

Dispelling Inaccurate Information about National Park Status

Benjamen petition

 

Above is a petition being circulated by Sue Benjamin of  Grand Junction in which she  asks for signatures of neighbors to join her to oppose designating Colorado National Monument as a new national park. Her petition language is italicized for the purposes of contrasting her statements with our facts in the document below. The response with actual facts and corrections is offered by the Grand Valley Citizens who favor seeing the Monument designated as a national park. The actual facts and our corrections are in bold typeface.

 

Petition:

Read the information below given to me by my neighbor. You do have to be a resident of Colorado to sign the petition. Those of you who exercise your dogs on the various paths, will no longer be able to do that.

 

Facts:

Dogs are currently not permitted on any of the trails in Colorado National Monument due to impacts to wildlife, fragile vegetation and the biological soil crust. Dogs are welcome and permitted on paved roadways, at overlooks, and in the campground.

Colorado Monument name change to a National Park

 

The effort is substantially more than a simple “name change”. In order for an area to be legislated as a national park it has to contain nationally significant resources and/ or commemorate major historical events and cultures. Our website (http://gjforparkstatus.com/) offers factual information on the criteria that Colorado National Monument meets to be considered for national park designation.

I had a long conversation with Scott McInnis this morning – he was involved in both the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the Great Sand Dunes National Park designations and lots of insight into the negative aspects of moving from a Monument designation to a National Park:

 

Former Congressman Scott McInnis helped move legislation forward to establish Black Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park while in Congress. The two parks and their adjacent communities have not seen “negative aspects” of being legislated as national parks. The petition statement is not based in facts.


1. Even though both are regulated by the Federal Government National Parks, are managed far more extensively than Monuments. The National Parks are the “Crown Jewels” of the Park service and subject to far more regulations. Do you think that Yellowstone is managed the same as the Colorado Monument?

 

This is totally inaccurate. National parks and national monuments are all a part of the United States National Park System. National parks, national monuments and all units of the national park system  are subject to the same federal regulations. The petition’s statement is blatantly inaccurate.

2. There is such a thing as “View Shed” – when the Park service decides that anything within the “View” of the Monument should be a part of the Park. This includes the regulations of the air quality (smoke from burning off of irrigation ditches and fields would be offensive) light pollution (regulating the amount of candle power a city can display at night).

 

This is blatantly inaccurate. The National Park Service does not make determinations about adding “anything within a view shed” to a park. The National Park Service does not make regulations pertaining to air quality, burning of ditches or light pollution.  Air quality permitting and visibility protection are the authority of the state of Colorado. The state, the county and the city regulate other aspects pertaining to ditch burning or lighting regulations.

 

Changing the Monument’s status to a national park will NOT drive changes in air quality standards. The Monument is a Class II area under the Clean Air Act.  Class I areas include national parks over 6,000 acres, wilderness areas over 5,000 acres and international parks that existed in 1977.  Although Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison are now national parks, only the wilderness in those areas that existed in 1977 classify as Class I areas.

 

Additionally Congress designated 158 areas as Class I areas, which included larger national parks and national wilderness areas that were already in existence on August 7, 1977.  These “mandatory” Class I areas may not be designated to a lower classification.  

 

Even though a number of national parks and wilderness areas have been established since 1977,

they have not been designated as Class I.  Examples of this include most park areas in Alaska and wilderness areas administered by the Bureau of Land Management which have all been designated after the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 which unified and clarified the authority of the Bureau of Land Management.  Examples of larger Bureau of Land Management wilderness areas in western Colorado that are Class II and not Class I are Black Ridge Wilderness Area which was established in 2000 and Dominguez Canyon, established in 2009. 

 

The 158 Class I areas that were designated in 1977 were also afforded protection of visibility through the development of state implementation plans explicit to visibility.   Any proposed legislation to re-designate the Colorado National Monument to a national park would not require changes in air quality class.

 

3. The caveats that are included in the Chamber’s endorsement would most likely be thrown out of any bill that would go thru the house and Senate and if they are included, could be over-ridden by the EPA or other Federal agency.

 

Not true and not based in any factual information, just speculation by petition’s author. Federal agencies do not have authority to override Acts of Congress.
4. The traffic that is said to be generated would far exceed the capability of the existing roads on the Monument. One solution would likely be the same as the Maroon Bells in Aspen – parking cars at the base and busing visitors over the monument.

 

Not based in fact. Colorado National Monument fully rebuilt and upgraded Rim Rock Drive, a project finished in 2008. The Monument added new pull-outs and other road improvements for visitors. The Monument works closely with the tourism industry and is able to space out group bus tours. The Monument has also made improvements to the pavement surface to make the surface smoother and add safety for the thousands of cyclists who enjoy the Monument. There is no factual comparison that can be made between Maroon Bells and Colorado National Monument. Again the petition’s author is not working with facts to make the suggestion.  Additionally, local traffic to Colorado National Monument historically mirrors the growth of Mesa County at 2 to 4 percent per year.  The Monument currently has plans in place aimed at accommodating that growth regardless of monument or park status.

5. At the time the Monument was designated, it took a lawsuit to allow the residents of Glade Park to pass through the gates without paying each time – could this happen again?

 

The petition’s author does not have a grasp of facts or local history. The Monument was established in 1911. The formal Glade Park Right of Way was established in 1986.  Glade Park residents will always have the use of Rim Rock Drive.  There will be no change in access for Glade Park residents or their visitors.

6. The Monument is currently an “unfriendly neighbor”. They do not allow bike races there – If a National Park, they could be even a more unfriendly neighbor.

 

Wrong again. The Monument shared a very positive relationship with the community and numerous organizations and partners throughout the Mesa County including School District 51 for more than a century.   Numerous biking events have been allowed on the Monument but large professional sporting events including professional bike races are not permitted by the National Park Service due to the impacts on fragile resources, wildlife, historic sites and to the visiting public at the height of the busy visitor season. The National Park Service is credited with generating millions of dollars annually for communities adjacent to national park areas, be they national parks, national monuments or other national park system units. It is incorrect to suggest that the Monument is or surmise that a future national park would be “an unfriendly neighbor”.

Of course he expounded on these points to a great extent, but these are the main points for consideration. Also take the time to call Scott Tipton: : (970) 241-2499 225 or write directly to his office at North 5th St., Suite 702 Grand Junction, CO 81501. We need these calls and petitions done within two weeks.

Please sign the petition and ask your neighbors too and mail to:
Sue Benjamin,
664 Canyon Creek Drive
Grand Junction, CO 81507

The Myths and Facts About National Park Status

If you follow the Daily Sentinel you know there have been numerous letters in support of  re-designating the Colorado National Monument a national park and a few against.   Here at GVRCNP we spend many long hours and late nights reviewing a wealth of studies regarding national parks, their rules and regulations, and  impacts on environment, quality of life and economy as well as talking to people and businesses who live in areas with national parks.  The positive benefits those studies and interviews  reveal have helped fuel our own passion to accomplish something that truly puts our community first.    We are always appreciative of those who take a moment to learn the facts and equally grateful for the opportunity to address the myths sometimes put out there by those who have not yet explored the facts.    We encourage anyone with questions to contact us through our website’s “ask a question” feature or directly at gvrcnp@gmail.com.   Letters to local papers are another great way to show your support.  We love the chance to keep the dialogue open and going strong!  Thank you for your support.

1. MYTH: Creating a national park could tighten air quality restrictions.

FACT: The Colorado National Monument is designated as a class 2 area under the Clean Air Act. Re-designation would not trigger changes to the monument’s air quality class, nor does it qualify to be considered a more strict class one area.  Legislation for a national park would confirm the re-designation to a national park would not trigger a change to a more strict class 1 area.  Despite myths to the contrary,  no industries including farmers would be impacted due to a change to park status.

2. MYTH: Creating a national park could impact water rights.

FACT: There are no inherent water sources on the Colorado National Monument and no water rights would be impacted by park status.

3. MYTH: The Grand Valley would be over-run with tourists.

FACT: Re-designation to a national park would help draw foreign and domestic bus tours which currently fly into Grand Valley Regional Airport then immediately leave for nearby national parks. Foreign visitors typically spend more than domestic visitors.  It’s estimated the loss of their business costs the Grand Valley hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.   With national park status it’s estimated visitor numbers would rise a moderate 10 percent in the next decade. Visitation by locals, typically mirrors valley growth.  It’s  estimated local visitation will rise 2 to 4 percent a year regardless of monument or park status.   Currently, visitation and organized tours to the Colorado National Monument  are at historic lows. Tour group bus numbers peaked at 500 in 1991 and have since fallen to 125 in 2012.  General visitation numbers are also down from that period.   Park officials estimate  it would take decades to re-build to the numbers seen in the early 1990s.

4. MYTH: Creating a national park could impact current or future industries.

FACT:  National monuments and parks are operated under the same rules and regulations, and any future impacts would be the same regardless of title.  Numerous parks and monuments are surrounded by industries  like oil and gas.  Some drilling operations even happen within national parks and monuments themselves. A local example is Canyonlands of the Ancients,  which hosts significant drilling and grazing.  No grazing or natural resource extraction happens within the Colorado National Monument and none would be impacted as a national park.  The CNM view shed and NEPA regulations have had no past impact on Grand Valley or surrounding area industry (as evidenced by ample industry within the valley and by the many communication towers positioned within the national monument itself).   As the National Park Service operates  monuments and parks under the same set of rules and regulations the NPS response to any new industry would be exactly  the same regardless of our canyons’ status as a national monument or national park.

5. MYTH: A national park would impact access for Glade Park residents and their visitors.

FACT:  Federally adjudicated access for Glade Park residents and Glade Park visitors will remain the same as a national park and would be included as a requirement in any future legislation to re-designate the monument to a national park.

6. MYTH: Creating a national park would mean new restrictions and regulations. Bike riders and nearby home owners could be negatively impacted.

FACT: National parks and monuments operate under the very same rules, regulations and status. The only thing that would change is the name. National Park status would not trigger any new rules for bike riders or nearby home owners, nor does NPS have any jurisdiction outside of  park borders.

7. MYTH: Creating a national park would not bring any new tourists.

FACT:  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park report a steady increase in new foreign tourists, who on average spend more than domestic tourists. They also note new increases in the domestic tour groups which target only national parks. Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP attracted 192,570 visitors in 2011 (31,000 more than 2008) and 173,777 in 2012 (up 14,000+ from 2008). Great Sand Dunes NP fared even better attracting 254,000+ visitors in 2011 and 276,000+ in 2012. Becoming a national park means immediate inclusion in global and domestic travel magazines, books, articles, tours and promotions dealing with national parks. National park status also means instant inclusion on Rand McNally maps highlighting national parks. Both regions surrounding the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP and Great Sand Dunes NP report increased hotel tax and sales and use tax revenues. The same revenues are currently and notably down in Mesa County, Palisade, Grand Junction, and Fruita and Mesa County’s unemployment rate stands at 9.5 percent.   Both GSDNP and BCGNP are situated in more remote locations while the Colorado National Monument lies within close proximity to a major interstate.

8. MYTH: Creating a national park would impact local quality of life.

FACT: Although Rocky Mountain National Park attracts 3 million tourists a year, the number one attraction to the adjoining town of Estes Park is not RMNP! Detailed studies by Summit Economics found the number one attraction to Rocky Mountain National Park is the  remote, relaxing and peaceful get away the town provides to visitors.  Residents and visitors alike say it’s  specifically the area’s high quality of life that draws them.   Studies of other towns located in close proximity to national parks also show quality of life issues remain the same or improve due to an increase in the tax base.   Tourism  remains one of the cleanest industries in the world because visitors don’t use the schools, public safety services or most infrastructure but their dollars greatly benefit all three.

9. MYTH: Visitors might trash our national monument.

FACT: Delta and Montrose County residents feared the same with re-designation of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to a national park, instead a local study determined it was locals and not visitors who were the primary source of litter. Increased funds from park visitor fees now pay to clean up littered areas.

10. MYTH: The Colorado National Monument should be turned back over to the state of Colorado or Mesa County.

FACT:  According to Colorado.Gov:  “Through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 the United States acquired a vast area which included what is now most of eastern Colorado. By the Treaty of Hidalgo in 1848, Mexico ceded to the United States most of that part of Colorado not acquired by the Louisiana Purchase. In 1850, the Federal Government purchased Texas’ claims in Colorado, and the present boundaries of Colorado were established.  Colorado was originally part of the Nebraska, Utah, Kansas, and New Mexico Territories. In 1859 a provisional territorial government was formed, called the Territory of Jefferson. In 1861 Congress created the Territory of Colorado.” [information from http://www.colorado.gov/dpa/doit/archives/history/histfaqs.htm ]  The Colorado National Monument and much of Mesa County has been owned, funded and maintained by U.S. taxpayers and visitors who pay fees to enjoy these historic public lands for well over one hundred years.   Current Federal lands have never been owned by the state of Colorado or Mesa County.  Learn more about Colorado history from www.colorado.gov. 

 11. MYTH: Increased R.V. traffic would endanger bike riders on the monument.

FACT: R.V.s and tour buses have been motoring over the monument’s historic 26 mile road for decades. The vast majority of motorists  visit in the midst of our heated summer months. Those who bike our monument regularly (many for decades) have found no issue with summer tourists for one simple reason. Regular cyclists try to arrive at the monument in the early dawn hours to avoid the searing afternoon heat. Knowing this is the case, the GJ Visitors and Convention Bureau directs tour groups to hold off on visiting the monument till late morning. Most bikers see very few if any tour vans. In fact, regular monument bikers are far more likely to tell you they have  noticed a sizable decrease in visitors and they’re right. Tour bus numbers to the CNM peaked at 500 in 1991 and have declined ever since. Fewer than 125 tour vans visited the monument last year. Additionally, while there have long been contingents of private R.V.s traveling the nation, most tour groups have traded in those large buses of old, for smaller more efficient vehicles to host smaller and more intimate tour groups of 15 to 25 people.

12. MYTH: National park status could force the government to “condemn” nearby homes and use eminent domain to confiscate the property and expand the national park.

FACT: Any legislation to re-designate the Colorado National Monument to a national park will stipulate that its  current borders  will remain exactly the same as a national park.   Because it takes an act of Congress to create a national park it also takes an act of Congress to change it’s status or borders.  Therefore, the NPS cannot purchase or acquire (much less condemn) any land  outside of the national park  boundaries established by Congress.  Land bordering national parks may be donated to the NPS but the NPS is not allowed to purchase or acquire them in any way other than donation.   Some homes and businesses do exist within national parks as inholdings.  There are no inholdings within the current Colorado National Monument borders nor would there be if it is established as a national park.   Some are also propagating myths about a “buffer  zone”.
There is currently no buffer zone around the Monument due to the existence of 191 private landowners who abut the Monument.   BLM land also  borders the Monument. If the Monument becomes a National Park,  draft legislation will confirm a buffer zone will not be possible  due to the current direct abutment to private land and the  commitment of remaining within existing boundaries.  Private land will remain private land.

  The impact on homes next to the Colorado National Monument is far more likely to be a very positive one should it be re-designated as a national park.  It is possible those with properties in close proximity to the national park may experience higher valuations.  Studies by Headwaters Economics show properties near protected open space, particularly national parks, maintain a higher value. The closer to protected open space the properties are, the more enhanced the value.  

 

13. MYTH: Changing the name of the monument is a better option.

FACT: Simply changing the monument’s name would not convince tour groups which only  target national parks  to visit the Colorado National Monument, only park status can do that. It would not elevate the park’s status or the valley’s profile nationally and internationally at no cost to locals,  nor would it merit inclusion in any book, article, tour or promotion highlighting the nation’s national parks. It would not allow for the monument’s inclusion on Rand McNally maps highlighting national parks. Further, John Otto and our community set out in 1907 with the primary goal of designating our magnificent canyons as a national park, a name change does nothing to see that historic community goal through to success.

 

14.  MYTH:      Park supporters had to  “stretch” the truth about the Colorado National Monument’s inherent features to help it meet stringent National Park Service qualifications to become a national park.

FACT:  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Either a monument meets the strict NPS guidelines to become a national park or it doesn’t.  The Colorado National Monument is among a rare few left in the nation which  meets and often exceeds the criterion for national park status.  It’s uniquely formed hanging canyons,  ancient Native American ruins (some dating past 10-thousand BC), artifacts and petroglyphs, fossils and rare dinosaur and Jurassic turtle footprints, thousand year old Pinyon trees,  intact Juniper woodlands, petrified sand dunes and exposed geography of the ages all combine to  tell a fascinating story of the world, time and mankind.   It is  a first rate national monument and would in fact be a 1st tier national park on par or surpassing many existing parks on a variety of levels.   National park status does not rely on size but our Colorado National Monument is larger than at least 14 current national parks (See our FAQs section for a list).

 

15.  MYTH:  The re-designation effort is all about money and is not an “altruistic” effort.

FACT:    Missouri born John Otto first wandered into our canyons in  1906 and put down stakes.  He said then,    “I found this place and it feels like the heart of the world to me.  I’m going to stay here and build trails and promote this place, because it should be a national park.”    True to his word, while many others of the time used their shovels, picks and powder to blast their way to gold and fortune, Otto, camped out in our canyons and  labored unpaid to carve out trails visitors  still follow today.  He circulated the first petition for a national park in 1907, doggedly writing letters to federal officials, hounding the Daily Sentinel’s publisher and convincing every businessman and leader of the time to sign his petition.   Our canyons were on the way to park status when a Congressional slowdown threatened the entire process.   Otto’s  leadership and the unflagging community support that followed convinced President William Howard Taft to intervene and use his powers under the Antiquities Act to designate our canyons a national monument via a presidential proclamation.  Otto settled for monument status but spent the rest of his life writing letters to reach his dream of a national park.  No one, who knows his history can say John Otto’s dedication to making our canyons a national park was anything but altruistic.

Today’s organizers of Grand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park admittedly do not spend our days,   building trails through Otto’s “heart of the world” or for that matter, pitching our tents  among its rough and towering red rock canyons . It is far more likely you will find one or some of us camped out behind a computer, researching facts,  writing letter after letter, on the phone with experts on air quality,  economics,  residents and  leaders of other communities with national parks, and local  folks or businessmen who want to know more about status change.    Our unpaid labor  isn’t the sweaty, physical kind  whose fruits  grow before your eyes and allow a strict measure of progress.  We Tweet, Facebook, cobble together web pages and stand before organizations and people who at least so far have been open minded to  and excited about the possibilities.  We can only judge our progress by the light that flashes in someone’s eyes who smiles and says, “Yes!” and the growing number of businesses and residents who add their name to our community petition.    Some of us rode horses along the canyon’s once undeveloped  base (before subdivisions moved in), now many of us ride  bikes along her curvy,  breathtaking rim,  none nursing dreams of cycling  grandeur,  just pushing ourselves…because we can.    LIke you, we hike its red rock trails, including those Otto carved out day after day and year after dedicated year.    The Monument is a grand part of what makes this valley feel like “home” even to the those  among us  who are not originally from here.  Some of us are just plain excited our community has a very real chance to elevate  this  deserving place that has been so special and sacred throughout our lives to a national park. 

That national park status will attract foreign and domestic tour companies which currently bypass us for national parks and cost our valley hundreds of thousands of dollars  in estimated losses also cannot be denied.  Nor should it be.  If sharing the “heart of the world” with the rest of the world means a sustained and moderate economic  boost for current  and future generations we believe  that seems like a good and positive thing.

In essence, this is about finally accomplishing a community dream born in 1907,  it is about a modern day community following the footsteps of those who came before us to accomplish something good for generations to come ,  to enhance the  economy and most of all  to elevate the monument to a status it has long deserved along side America’s other national parks.

 

 

Grand Junction Chamber Re-ignites Historic support of NP

GJCHAMBER LOGO

With it’s recent joint resolution, the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce culminates nearly a century of support and advocacy to  re-designate the Colorado National Monument to a national park.   It’s resolution with the Grand Junction Economic Partnership notes  both the economic benefits  a national park could bring the Grand Valley along with it’s historic importance.  The GJ Chamber’s connection to our majestic canyons is long and storied.  It’s original members were  also the original boosters, backing John Otto’s 1907  petition for national park status.   In 2011, the Legends committee of Grand Junction erected a magnificent statue of Otto astride his horse and reprinted a book, local writer, Al Look wrote about his friend Otto in 1961 called, “John Otto and the Colorado National Monument”.       The book offers a glimpse through local history, detailing how the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce,  at Otto’s dogged urging,   officially petitioned then  Secretary of the Interior James A. Garfield to set the area aside  as a National Park.

 President Taft finally rewarded the community’s unflagging support and John Otto’s enterprising  leadership with monument status in 1911.   Look writes that  over the next two decades the Grand Junction Chamber would help pay for fencing materials, upkeep and even for a portion of the 45-thousand dollars it took to build Monument road leading to the Canyon’s east entrance.  The City of Grand Junction and Mesa County, he wrote, also footed the bill.   

 Later,  in 1927, the National Park Service appointed the Grand Junction Chamber to officially supervise the national monument.  The Chamber held the role for four years.  During that brief  time it’s leaders successfully petitioned the NPS to survey and create a spectacular  road over the national  monument.   A poor economy helped.   In 1931, the government ordered the  Civilian Conservation Corp to go to work building Rim Rock Drive, at the then  nearly unfathomable cost of 1-million dollars. 

The Chamber would go on to support future pushes to re-designate the national monument a national park.  The last push,  in the early 1990’s,  would have tripled the size of the Colorado National Monument but the effort failed for lack of support and leadership.     The latest push, started two years ago when Congressman Scott Tipton and Senator Mark Udall joined forces to appoint a study group to address local concerns and answer questions.  The positive findings of that group and subsequent research led to the formation of  Grand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park and to an overwhelming wave of community support by businesses, organizations and citizens who feel the time for a national park has finally come. 

John Otto once told National Park Service officials, ” The truth is written in the rocks.”   He did not mislead them or our community.    The Grand Valley’s  original $45-thousand dollar  investment in the Colorado National Monument  over time has proved an economic windfall, repaid hundreds of times over.  Today,  visitors to the Colorado National Monument bring Mesa County an average of 23-million dollars per year.  It’s estimated national park status, the original goal of John Otto, and our community, would further enhance that original investment, drawing foreign and domestic tourists who currently land at Grand Junction Regional Airport then  proceed directly to Arches National Park.  Fact is, the world’s largest tour companies target national parks but ignore national monuments like ours.Americas_best_idea

More than 100 years after the original push for a national park and after years of study and haggling, we have never been closer to achieving John Otto’s dream of national park status.  While the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau has long since usurped the Chamber’s role as one of  the national monument’s primary boosters, the Grand Junction Chamber’s support through time  of  re-designation to a national park cannot be unwoven from the rich fabric of it’s history.   The  Chamber’s recent resolution not only strengthen’s and renews it’s old ties  to the monument but forever forward forges it’s place in local and national  history, as an advocate to create a  national park in what John Otto called the “…heart of the world.”    It also underscores the now famous words of Wallace Stegner, “National Parks are the best idea we ever had.  Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best, rather than our worst.”     GVRCNP  thanks  the Grand Junction Chamber for their recent and future support to make John Otto’s dream a reality.

Grand Junction Economic Partnership endorses National Park

GJEP LOGO

Grand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park commends the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and the GJ Chamber for their recent historic resolutions endorsing re-designation of the Colorado National Monument to the nation’s 60th national park. 

That GJEP and the  GJ Chamber now join the GJ Downtown Association and GJ Downtown  Development Authority and cities of  Grand Junction, Fruita, and Palisade, the Palisade Chamber and Tourism Board, the Daily Sentinel, Colorado National Monument Association and Fruita Rotary as well as  business leaders like Tillie Bishop, Tim Foster, Jamie Hamiliton, Bruce Benge, Josh Penry, Robert Bray and hundreds of other citizens, businesses and organizations who carefully evaluated all the facts and chose to support park status should speak volumes to our community about its intrinsic value and harken back to 1907 when our community first spoke with one voice to  aspire to create a national park.

Creating a national park not only fits the stated missions of GJEP and the GJ Chamber to diversify our local economy but  as importantly it comes to our community virtually free.  Tourism is among the cleanest, most coveted industries in the world.  Visitors don’t regularly use our emergency services, infrastructure or schools but their dollars greatly benefit all three.
 The painful reality is that  Mesa County unemployment numbers hover above 9 percent and local lodging and sales tax revenues are significantly down.  
  The Colorado National Monument is one of few  in the entire country to meet every stringent qualification to become a national park.  Areas with national parks are universally considered desirable places to live, visit and do business.
 Today,  our community stands together in an inspired and vital way, on the shoulders of  community visionaries  who proceeded us,  to create something truly great and good for generations to come.   100+ years after John Otto’s original petition for park status the time for draft legislation to  make it happen  is finally here.  We hope everyone who loves this valley grasps this once in a lifetime chance to join Otto’s legacy and create the nation’s 60th national park.   It’s easy to learn more and  send letters of support to Congressman Scott Tipton and Senator Mark Udall through  our website  at www.gjforparkstatus.com.  
If you have ever gasped in wonder at its shadows and light, powered your bike beyond it’s long crest at sunrise and hiked or reflected in it’s sheltering canyons you already get it.   Because of you we stand at the cusp of  local and national history.   Thank you for your support.
Terri L. Chappell
Grand Junction Region Citizens for a National Park.