Simply changing the monument’s name as some have suggested will do nothing to attract the thousands of tourists and major tour groups whose itineraries target national parks but ignore monuments like ours.
Grand Junction Visitors and Convention Bureau estimates our area’s losses exceed a million dollars a year simply because we have a “monument” and not a national park. Studies show the term “ monument” universally conjures simple images of a mere statue or marker. A name change also will not put the Colorado National Monument in Rand McNally maps which only highlight national parks. It’s re-designation as a national park is the only thing that will put the Grand Valley on the “national park map”. The value of that inclusion alone is almost impossible to calculate but it would come to us absolutely free. Designation as a national park would also mean immediate inclusion in numerous books and guides which focus solely on national parks.
As the nation’s 60th national park it would immediately raise the Grand Valley and surrounding region’s profile nationally and internationally, help attract top physicians, university professors and cutting edge businesses that list quality of life (including national parks)as one of the top three reasons to locate or relocate to a specific area. National parks have been shown to increase community health, boost real estate values and improve quality of life. They provide numerous research and grant opportunities and greatly enhance business recruitment opportunities for areas which also offer a university (think Fort Collins , CSU and Hewlett Packard).
If the Colorado National Monument becomes a national park it would give our region 4 national parks within 2 hours of each other (the other three are Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park. We would also have 7 total national parks within close proximity. With the re-designation of the Colorado National Monument the Grand Junction VCB says we would have the closest cluster of national parks in the country.
Tourism remains among the cleanest industries in the world. Visitors do not use schools, or typically require police, fire or library services. Tourist dollars do however contribute greatly to funding jobs, new city and county infrastructures, to public safety and schools. Some tourists return to buy 2nd homes in national park areas where they live part time, other’s may choose to eventually retire here. Gunnison, Montrose, Estes Park and Moab have all experienced the steady positive benefits of increased tourists, part time residents, and retirees with substantial investment income, along with steady well planned growth as opposed to the unplanned frenzies of a boom or devastating economic blow of a bust. Fewer residents are forced to move away to find work in down times or commute to other states for work.
Finally, its current designation as a monument leaves our monument area wide open to significant change. The president is empowered to remove a monument’s designation or greatly expand it’s borders without the consent of Congress or local elected officials. Former President Bill Clinton, for example, vastly expanded the Grand Staircase in Utah during the final weeks of his administration. Designation as a national park, however, so protects our national treasure it would take an act of congress to change it’s status or borders. Additionally, the re-designation to a national park comes at virtually no cost to local taxpayers.