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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.



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.



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 ( 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   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 ]  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 

 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


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.

Colorado National Monument Association Highlights Facts


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
National Monument.
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
the future. 
 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,,
or 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. 

Josh Penry Says Time has Come For Park Status

penry image

Park status for monument is an idea whose time has come

By Josh Penry
Thursday, March 21, 2013

Courtesy:  Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

The idea of redesignating the Colorado National Monument as a national park has been talked about in coffee shops and boardrooms for a very, very long time.

But while the concept as concept enjoys widespread local support, it has never made it off the drawing board.

Why? For those wanting to grant this western Colorado crown jewel its just due as a national park, the devil’s always been in the details.

What to call it?

How to maintain historic access for adjacent residents, ranchers and recreationalists?

How to tightly structure the law so that the Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency don’t manipulate it?

Every national park designated through the annals of American history has confronted and overcome similarly critical issues.

But for whatever reason, these and other questions have remained unsettled with respect to Colorado National Monument. They’ve been the undoing of those advocating park status for this red-rock hunk of God’s best handiwork.

Will this be the year that our community and congressional representatives finally settle these issues, opening the door for the Colorado National Monument to become America’s newest national park?

Let’s hope so. It’s an idea whose time has come.

In our laws and our culture, there is no higher privilege or higher standard for a patch of dirt, rock, forest or mountain than to become a national park.

No ordinary patch of Mother Earth qualifies, either.

Grand Canyon. Grand Teton. Yosemite. They are our collective natural treasures. They speak to our love of God’s creation and our desire to preserve and showcase these extraordinary places in our otherwise ordinary lives.

I’m not going to spend any time describing why the Colorado National Monument is easily on par with the standard of a national park. If you’ve looked over Cold Shivers’ Point on a clear, blue day, you know.

Colorado National Monument is a national treasure already — the sign just doesn’t read national park.

Beyond preserving and showcasing the best that nature has given us, national park status can be an economic engine.  When the uninformed passersby see the sign “national monument,” they can be forgiven for thinking it is a roadside tribute to an old dude who drove a wagon train through here once.

But a national park? RVs come rolling in to see a national park.

These reasons, and many more, explain the desire of many through the decades to remake our Colorado National Monument into a national park.

It’s been more than 100 years now since then-President William Howard Taft established Colorado National Monument with the easy stroke of a foresighted pen.

The national monument designation, as big a deal as it was, was still something of a consolation for 20th century naturalist John Otto, the legendary man who first promoted the idea of making this track of rolling red-rock canyons and jaw-dropping spires a national park.

“I came here last year and found these canyons, and they feel like the heart of the world to me,” Otto said. “I’m going to stay and build trails and promote this place, because it should be a national park.”

But Congress didn’t act on Otto’s idea, and only Congress can create a national park. So Taft did the best he could, invoking the Antiquities Act to designate Colorado National Monument.

A century later, Otto’s words are persuasive, though his dream is unrealized.

How do we finish the job?

First, those who support national park status, say so. Tell Sen. Mark Udall and Congressman Scott Tipton to both listen to local input and actively work to forge consensus.

Once they hear from you, the ball will be in their court to begin methodically working through those devilish details that have trapped our national park in the purgatory of monument status.

How do we protect historic access for the residents of Glade Park? Udall and Tipton should work with Glade Park ranchers and residents to hammer out legislative language that clearly requires exactly that.

How do we keep the EPA from construing the national park designation as an excuse to monkey with industry? Again, leaders in our community, perhaps the Mesa County commissioners and cities of Fruita and Grand Junction, should haul their lawyers into Udall and Tipton’s offices and craft statutory guarantees that keep the EPA at bay.

In 25 and 125 years, our descendants and those of Udall and Tipton will cheer their action and their leadership if they can hammer out agreement and pass national park legislation.

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.

Josh Penry is a former minority leader of the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.

City of Fruita first to embrace re-designation of Colorado National Monument to Park

fruita bike riders

Grand Valley Region Citizens National Park reserves a special place of honor for the Fruita City Council.  In this most recent effort to re-designate the Colorado National Monument a National Park, it was the Fruita City Council who led the way,  as the first local municipality to issue a letter of support.  We believe history will well remember their leadership and support of this historic effort.

The road to national park status has almost never run smoothly, which may explain why over the past 100 plus years only 59 have achieved the coveted status of a national park.  Behind many beloved U.S. national parks you will find the  story of a man or community who worked tirelessly to gain Federal support, sometimes you will also find protagonists who worked equally hard publicly or privately to quash “America’s Best Idea” in their own community.

Here in  the Grand Valley the historic quest to designate our backyard canyons a national park has had many heroes .    John Otto famously declared in 1907, “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.”   The community overwhelmingly  rallied behind Otto.   Their unflagging  support and the tireless leadership of Otto, The Daily Sentinel and at that time the  Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce convinced President William Howard Taft, in 1911 to designate our canyons,  the Colorado National Monument.    Otto then spent the rest of his life writing letters and contacting legislators to elevate the monument to a national park.

The Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce led a second failed attempt to triple the size of the Colorado National Monument and re-designate it a national park in the 1990’s.    Then,  two years ago a study group comprised of  18 locals was able to lay a series of questions to rest but disbanded without taking a position.    It was during that time (before the formation of  Grand Valley Region Citizens for a National Park) that  Fruita City officials  looked at the available facts, agreed park status was the best thing for their community and issued an official letter  in favor of  re-designation.  Their leadership should be noted.

The National Park Service has closely evaluated the status of the Colorado National Monument and found it is among the very few which  uniquely qualify for National Park Status.   Moving forward,  the municipalities, organizations, businesses and Grand Valley region citizens who have taken up where John Otto and an inspired community left off should also be remembered and honored for standing up, standing strong  and leading the way.    Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.