Retired Park Ranger Weighs in AGAINST a National Park

Retired park ranger, William Solawetz of Grand Junction, reaffirms the case that Friends of the Colorado National Monument has made against national park status for the Colorado National Monument.

His compelling letter to the editor was printed in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on July 4, 2014.

Delicate Arch Tourist Crowds

Tourists crowd the viewing area on the way to Delicate Arch in nearby Arches National Park.

Retired ranger concerned over monument redesignation

I am a retired Utah park ranger, manager and student of park management and design for over three decades. There are many reasons not to alter the current designation of Colorado National Monument, and I will mention a few.

I have visited the monument weekly, year-round since 2001. With relatively small increases in visitor use during that time, I have observed full parking lots at all times of year, as well as resource damage due to traffic overflow and congestion. Other damage has occurred from the creation of many social trails, vandalism and graffiti.

The monument is a very limited and finite resource. If money were invested, facilities could be improved and manpower increased, but there is little that can be done to mitigate the damage to the resource and the user experience, by flooding the area with more vehicles and footprints. Expansion of parking areas will only exacerbate crowding. Significant road improvement would destroy the resource we are attempting to preserve. Increases in global population and the subsequent travelers that come with it are more than enough for managers to contend with. You can help preserve John Otto’s legacy by not renaming the monument. It has been a monument for over 100 years.

While a very few people may benefit financially from a name change and the exposure it presents, the local population, visitors and the monument itself, as a natural resource that we have sworn to preserve, will be on the losing side.

Economic growth should not be a factor in deciding the designation of a national park. The purpose of designating an area as a national park or monument is to protect the area and its natural inhabitants for generations to come and for all Americans to share in its ownership and stewardship. This beautiful piece of canyon country is already protected and preserved with its monument designation. Any change in name or status would be redundant.

WILLIAM SOLAWETZ Grand Junction

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