“Promised Overblown, Negatives Minimized”
As someone who already has Colorado National Monument in my back yard, I want to be clear about why I’m not eager to see Rim Rock Canyons National Park there instead.
My concerns are not simply about what might happen in my back yard. I have four main objections:
1. The “locally driven public process” produced a business bill in parks clothing. When the initial process found no consensus in favor of National Park status, we soon learned that was the wrong answer. A new, so-called grassroots campaign was launched to educate us. On the heels of this effort, a new group stacked with supporters was commissioned to write a bill that seems aimed at advancing business interests and protecting the oil and gas industry—not parks and the environment.
2. National Park tourism won’t diversify the economy. Overall national park visits have flattened and are declining in many locations. Bus tours, at the fore of the increased tourism argument, have also fallen dramatically in recent years. National Park visitation is extremely sensitive to the national economy. Any jobs created to serve park visitors will be few, seasonal and low-paid. Actual amenities, not a label intended for low-information travelers, are what will attract the kind of quality development the valley should be planning for.
3. The benefits of a name change have been overblown. It is true that a “National Park” label will attract distant tourists here—in the same way that calling the Grand Junction Rockies the Colorado Rockies might fill more seats at Suplizio Field. Will those visitors find their expectations met by the nation’s fourth smallest national park? Will they recommend it to other travelers after moving on to Arches, Zion and the Grand Canyon? For most of these travelers, we will be a brief stop rather than a destination.
4. The potential impacts have been minimized. Somehow the existing roads will be able to handle more traffic, cyclists will be just as safe, overlooks will accommodate more vehicles, trails and wild areas will remain pristine, and locals—the most frequent users of the resource—will continue to have the same experiences of this treasured place. There’s no such thing as a free ride on the National Park tour. Change always has a cost.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to share the Monument with others. I’m not paranoid about the Federal Government forcing us to breathe clean air. I care about good jobs. Instead of looking for ways to exploit this treasure, however, we should be preserving and protecting the many assets that make Grand Junction a great place to live—because they also make it a great place to visit.
“Natural values should determine park status”
National parks are the “best of the best” with their unique natural features. Denali, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier and Crater Lake are examples of our best. They are generally remote from many urban areas and large in size, and they have features that are not found elsewhere.
If the natural features of Colorado National Monument can compare to the best, then it is worthy of designation as a national park. However, if its natural features are similar to other areas in the region, it should remain a monument. National Park Service statistics show that both the Sand Dunes and Black Canyon have decreased in annual visitors since they were designated national parks, while the monument has continued to increase during the same period.
Thus, upgrading to park status is no guarantee of greater tourism numbers translating into local economic gain. If the primary reason for changing the monument to a national park is now focused on a perceived economic gain for the area, then there is no reason that all monuments should not be upgraded to park status to benefit their local areas. But that may not be a given. Potential economic gain should not be the deciding factor.
Giving the monument national park status may not put it in the “best of the best” category in the opinion of future visitors, which may have a negative impact on the local area. Make the change if it truly meets the values that the best have to offer. Being a great monument is not all bad.
“Changing monument to park a bad idea, Opposed by many”
After reading The Daily Sentinel’s editorial of April 29, I continue to be amazed at the naivete of this paper and that small select group of supporters who want to change the Colorado National Monument to a national park.
They keep bringing out the same old arguments about increasing tourism (questionable), unchanging air quality standards (these can be rewritten any time by the EPA), traffic concerns (our bicyclists have real concerns about regulations), etc.
The paper tries to dispel locals’ fears about increasing federal controls that would result from the change. After what has been happening in Nevada and Texas, can you blame citizens for not liking the idea of more federal intrusion from such a change? It is true that parks and monuments operate under the same rules, but parks are the crown jewels and more attention is paid to them. They are currently being used by the environmental movement (through the EPA and other organizations) to control the areas that surround them, bringing undesirable and unnecessary changes to communities and people’s lives.
My friends and I have spent a lot of time getting petitions signed in the Grand Junction area, opposing the change to park status. Most of the signers are happy with the current status of the monument and feel nothing is broken, so why “fix” it? But, we’ve heard reports from former Park Service employees, residents of Glade Park, visitors to national parks elsewhere and those living outside national park areas that tell a far different story from what our local media do. They include intimidation, over-regulation, unfriendliness, etc.
The federal government is intruding more and more into our daily lives. Our country was founded originally to limit this. Organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency have no business even existing in the USA. When will people open their eyes and see what is happening to our lives and basic freedoms? Let Udall and Tipton and The Daily Sentinel know that changing our monument to a national park is a bad idea from start to finish.
I hope everyone understands the irreversible nature of the “national parks” process and will oppose the designation of the Colorado National Monument. It’s clear that the caveats in Sen. Mark Udall’s draft legislation are insufficient to protect the interests of Mesa County and businesses and residents that dwell in the shadow of the monument.
The retirees’ organization, along with the National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, among others, will lobby to strike any measure of local control from this bill. This article proves that a national park is not merely a feather in the cap of a regional tourist destination, but rather a federal enclave that affects everything around it.
Assurances from proponents that the monument will not be designated a Class I Area ring hollow as it becomes clear that the goals of the National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency and non-governmental orgnaizations such as the retirees’ organization are to create broad swaths of “pristine” public lands which are pretty to view, but where human activity is increasingly controlled and non-tourism industry is eliminated.
This legislation will not retain its current form. If introduced into the full Congress, it will be altered to fit the desires of lobbyists from powerful NGOs like the National Parks Conservation Association and other environmental groups who will demand it be designated a Class I Area.
The only way to assure that the lifestyles of residents who live near the monument (farmers, ranchers, business owners, bicyclists, families and the people of Glade Park) and energy interests and potentially thousands of jobs are not threatened by having a federal enclave in our backyard is to assert full-throated opposition to national park status.
Remember, folks: No Class I Areas or national parks have ever been reversed. This constitutes a permanent and potentially devastating change to our way of life in Western Colorado.