Plan elevates Monument to next level
CNM and the S curves on Rimrock Drive just above the tunnel on the east side.
By Gary Harmon
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Rim Rock Canyons National Park would become the nation’s 60th park under legislation proposed by a five-member panel charged with drawing up a measure to upgrade the status of Colorado National Monument.
The proposed legislation, summarized in several bullet points on a web page released by federal legislators, mirrors many of the concerns raised about park status during more than a year of study by another committee, including preserving the existing air quality classification of Colorado National Monument.
It also would keep the current boundaries and prohibit the establishment of buffer zones around the 20,000-acre monument, which is bordered by Fruita, Grand Junction and Glade Park.
The Daily Sentinel has obtained a copy of the proposed legislation drafted by a committee of Grand Valley residents. It can be viewed at GJSentinel.com
Existing access for Glade Park residents on the east end of Rim Rock Drive would be preserved in the legislation, which also would allow the National Park Service to build a bypass at the east entrance for Glade Park residents and commercial vehicles.
While the proposal addresses many of the concerns raised over decades of discussion about park status, a member of the five-member committee that drafted it said the proposal doesn’t represent the final word.
“There is nothing in the proposal that we would consider non-negotiable,” said Ginny McBride, who heads the Colorado National Monument Association and is a member of the citizens committee.
That includes the proposed name, McBride said, suggesting that the proposed new moniker was the result of some prolonged discussion.
“Everything in that proposal was the result of discussion and compromise and was based on mutual respect for one another,” McBride said. “The name is an example of that. We listened to what we were hearing from the community and what was important to various perspectives. The name is the result of that discussion.”
The committee was formed at the request of U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., both of whom stressed that no bill has been introduced and that more work is expected.
“The only thing that’s cast in stone are the canyons and spires” of what is now known as Colorado National Monument, Udall said.
Tipton stressed as well that no legislation has been introduced and that none would be without community backing.
“To be clear, I have not drafted a bill in the House of Representatives to change the designation of the Colorado National Monument,” Tipton said in a statement. “I look forward to the community’s comments and ideas on the committee’s recommendations, and will take them into careful consideration as we determine what’s next.”
The committee worked closely with Tipton and Udall staffers in western Colorado and in Washington, D.C., McBride said.
One element of the draft legislation not called out in the summary says Rim Rock National Park couldn’t be used to prevent development in the Grand Valley or other areas.
“The fact that an activity or use on land outside the park can be seen or heard within the park shall not preclude the use or activity outside the boundary of the park,” the draft legislation says.
ADVISORY GROUP PLANNED
The advisory committee envisioned by the draft calls for 15 members to serve staggered three-year terms and represent Mesa County, Grand Junction, Fruita, Palisade, Glade Park, and the Redlands.
The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Southern Ute Tribe also would be represented.
Six other members, who must reside in or near Mesa County, would represent tourism, outdoor recreation and the management and protection of the park’s resources.
Warren Gore, a Glade Park rancher who sat on the committee and has dealt with attempts to enlarge Colorado National Monument for nearly 30 years, said the measure represents an opportunity to halt meddling in the park.
By having Congress designate the monument a national park, “it keeps some president with no ties to Mesa County from doing what President Clinton did in southeast Utah,” Gore said, referring to Bill Clinton’s designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument under the 1906 Antiquities Act.
In addition to McBride and Gore, Kristi Pollard, Jamie Lummis and Michael Burke served on the drafting committee.
Udall and Tipton set no timeline for the introduction of legislation, though Udall did note that he had mentioned a 90- to 120-day comment period when in Grand Junction last month.
“I don’t think we’ve got a firm timetable,” Tipton said. “This is so intimate to Grand Junction and Fruita. We need to be able to see some community support and get some community input.”
Turning the Colorado National Monument into the country’s newest national park has been years in the making.
KEY POINTS IN THE DRAFT PLAN
■ The boundaries of Rim Rock Canyons National Park are the same as Colorado National Monument.
■ Existing rights of way are unaffected; Glade Park access is protected. No federal fund can be used unless they were appropriated before establishment of the park.
■ No buffer zone or protective perimeter around the park
■ The air quality designation for the park will remain Class II under Section 162(b) of the Clean Air Act. It could only change at the request of Mesa County and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
■ Water rights are unaffected
■ Rim Rock Canyons National Park Advisory Committee established with 15 members representing local government, business and industry and Southern Ute Tribe.
■ Memorial to people who built Rim Rock Drive
THE ROAD TO NATIONAL PARK STATUS
■ 1906 — John Otto is captivated by the sight of canyons and monoliths hewn by eons of erosion of the uplift overlooking the Grand Valley. Otto is inspired to seek designation of the area as a national park.
■ 1911 — President William Howard Taft designates the area as a national monument, fulfilling a portion of Otto’s vision.
■ 1911-1987 — Discussion of park status continues, but no bill is drafted.
■ 1987 — The National Park Service asks U.S. Rep. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, D-Colo., to support expansion of the monument. The idea got no traction and even earned opposition from the Bureau of Land Management.
■ 1997 — Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt restarts the discussion with a visit.
■ 1999 — Babbitt proposes several new monuments and the expansion of Colorado National Monument.
■ 2 000 — Congress passes and President Bill Clinton signs legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scot McInnis, R-Colo., establishing the Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area bordering — but not expanding — Colorado National Monument.
■ 2010 — U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., says he wanted to consider the status of Colorado National Monument.
■ 2011 — Udall, in a town hall at Colorado Mesa University, calls for park status and says the Grand Valley community could write the legislation designating the monument a park.
■ 2012-2013 — A committee of Grand Valley residents meets several times to discuss the merits of park status. The committee disbands without making a recommendation.
■ 2013 — Udall and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton appoint a five-member committee to draft a bill that would redesignate the monument while addressing local concerns.
■ 2014 — The high points of legislation drafted by the committee are released by Tipton and Udall.