Don’t Fix It Until It Gets Broken
Proponent’s Catch 22: National Park status for the CNM is touted by proponents as a future economic boon that will result from greatly increased tourist visitation. Some claim that the “prestige” of a national park vs. a national monument, will to attract “high-tech” industry to the area. There is no hard data supporting such assertions, and conditions within the existing monument are not suitable for the kind of growth proponents claim will occur. According to minutes from the Colorado National Monument Advisory Group meeting of January 18, 2012:
- “the current road system is beyond maxed out”
- “there is an increasing demand for law enforcement on the property”
- “A growing proportion of the law enforcement needs occur at night”
- “Suicide attempts also require law enforcement attention”
The CNM is relatively small in comparison to other destinations and recreation areas, and can be traversed by car in less than an hour. A significant increase in foot and motorized traffic would negatively impact its unique environment, very narrow roadways, plant life and wildlife.
- The roads are narrow and subject to erosion and damage due to seasonal temperature fluctuations and rockslides.
- Many stretches of road in the CNM do not have guard rails, and increased traffic greatly heightens the potential for accidents.
- The current National Park Service (NPS) administrator has banned bike races inside the CNM, and increased motor traffic in the form of large tour busses could lead to a complete ban on bicycle traffic on its paved roads.
- A significant increase in traffic could lead to a ban on personal cars inside the park, limiting motorized traffic to shuttle busses, as currently exists in Zion National Park—which is much larger than the CNM. https://www.zionpark.org/article_shuttle_08.php
- A drive through and around the CNM will tell locals and visitors alike all they need to know about the viability of national park status. Roads in and around the CNM are narrow. South Broadway is a narrow paved lane which runs along the NE boundary of the monument, abutting BLM land on one side, and private property on the other. Immediately next to the roadway are canals used for irrigation. There are no passing lanes, few turnouts large enough for more than one car at a time, and bicyclists and runners can be regularly found on South Broadway.
- The 18 mile Rim Rock Drive cutting through the Monument is narrow, steep, and many stretches, including those along sheer cliff faces, lack guard rails. Turnouts on the Monument itself accommodate only a few cars at a time and there is little room for visitors to stand. The only turnouts large enough to accommodate tour busses are within the south end camping area and in front of the visitor center. Large tour groups would have a difficult time accessing the vistas and trails along Rim Rock Drive.
- The reality is that most long-distance travelers who visit the CNM access it by car. Lacking the capacity to park large vehicles and guide large groups of people practically and safely to its scenic viewpoints, most groups experience the Colorado National Monument as an 18 mile drive-through, complete with one restroom and retail stop at the small visitor center.
Increased foot traffic leads to erosion, the destruction of naturally-occurring cryptobiotic soil, wildlife habitat destruction, littering, vandalism, theft of minerals and plant life, personal and property crimes, and necessitates increased maintenance, sanitation, and law enforcement.