Make Colorado National Monument
our 60th National Park
by Ginny McBride
Editorial reprinted with permission from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:
What would John do? Should the Colorado National Monument become
America’s 60th national park or remain as it is?
Those of us fully versed in John Otto’s story know his dream was to see
the canyons west of Grand Junction recognized by Congress as a national
park. Instead, in 1911 President Taft created what is now Colorado
One hundred years later, the Colorado National Monument Association is
determined to make Otto’s very real dream come true.Grand Valley
residents may know CNMA exists to support Colorado National Monument
and its scientific, educational and interpretive programs, with the goal of
helping visitors better connect to this rich geologic and recreational gem in
western Colorado. You could say CNMA’s mission is to fulfill John Otto’s
dream — to share the monument’s splendor with the world.
The association believes national park status is the right thing for the
monument and the Grand Valley. Here’s why:
National parks and monuments are operated under the same set
of laws, regulations and policies. The federal government (not state
or local governments, as some erroneously believe) has successfully
managed the monument for 101 years and will continue to do so in
Changing the monument’s status to a national park will not drive
changes in air or water quality standards. The monument is a Class
II area under the Clean Air Act. Class I areas include national parks
with more than 6,000 acres, wilderness areas over 5,000 acres and
international parks that existed in 1977. For example, although Great
Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison were monumentsturned national parks, only the wilderness areas that existed in 1977
in those parks classify as Class I areas.
The monument’s current boundaries will not change because of
park status. Glade Park residents will retain the court-adjudicated
right of way to the four-mile stretch of Rim Rock Drive from the east
entrance to DS Road.
Currently, the majority of Rim Rock Drive traffic represents nonrecreational users accessing Glade Park. If changing the monument
to a national park causes a 10 percent increase in recreational use,
summer traffic would increase by approximately 52 cars, less than a
4 percent increase in total traffic.
The monument is not too small to be considered a national park.
There are several national parks the same size, or even smaller,
than our monument.These are just some of the facts related to
the monument becoming a national park.
Last week, National Geographic published its Top 10 List of
underappreciated parks. Colorado National Monument was No. 4.
While CNMA is pleased the monument is recognized for its
“spectacular canyons, buttes, spires and other sandstone
formations,” we regret it continues to be overshadowed by other
nearby national parks such as Arches and Canyonlands.
By achieving national park status, the monument will be recognized
by entities like the Rand McNally National Parks Guide and by tour
companies currently bypassing this incredible jewel situated in the
center of a vibrant community and next to a fine regional airport.
Some wonder why the monument deserves to be a national park,
given its small size as compared to Yellowstone or the Grand
Canyon. Here is why:
The monument has one of the last remaining intact pinyon juniper woodlands along the Colorado Plateau, with trees over
1,000 years old.
Within its boundaries are endemic plants, hanging gardens,
biological soil crust, riparian ecosystems, native grasslands,
sagebrush and shrublands.
The monument’s geologic features include Precambrian
basement rocks (1.75 billion years old).
The monument is a prime example of “hanging canyons,”
originating not from glaciers, but from faulting that elevated a
block of tough Precambrian rock.
Rim Rock Drive, listed on the National Register of Historic
Places, is one of the most spectacular drives in the United
States. It was constructed using manual labor by the Civilian
Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration. It is
a historically significant Depression– era project.
Colorado National Monument is entirely worthy of national park
status. Yet the most important reason is so we may fulfill our roles as
stewards and hosts for this landscape and meet our obligation to
share the monument with the world. A national park will be a source
of pride for our community and for a nation that cherishes its park
The first National Park Service Superintendent, Stephen Mather,
could have been speaking to each of us when he said:
“The parks do not belong to one state or to one section … The
Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national
properties in which every citizen has a vested interest; they
belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of
Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming,
and of Arizona … A visit inspires love of country; begets
contentment; engenders pride of possession; contains the
antidote for national restlessness … He is a better citizen with
a keener appreciation of the privilege of living here who has
toured the national parks.”
Join CNMA in supporting the change to park status to fulfill John
Otto’s dream.Visit our website, www.coloradonma.org,
or gjforparkstatus.com. Send a letter of support to your
congressional representatives. Let’s be No. 60!
Ginny McBride is chairwoman of the Colorado National Monument
Association. She wrote this column on behalf of the association’s
board of directors.