With little public input from the people of the ranching community or Glade Park and without consulting with the Board of Commissioners in Mesa County, the National Park Service (NPS) Director at the Colorado National Monument (CNM), Lisa Eckert, announced that vehicles containing “hazardous” cargo would be banned from using the route they have used for decades.
The road in question is Monument Road, which joins the road to Glade Park just a few miles inside the boundaries of the CNM. Ranchers and other residents of Glade Park, a rural community situated on the plateau above the Colorado National Monument, use Monument Road to haul goods, equipment, hay, fertilizer, livestock, fuel, and other necessities, to and from their operations. Eckert seeks to prohibit all these materials, whether or not they present a danger to traffic on the Monument and despite the fact that there have been no reports of ‘hazardous materials’ being released into the environment due to an accident on the road.
A Grand Junction Daily Sentinel article by Gary Harmon, dated June 14, details the unilateral decision made by the National Park Service:
Trucks hauling propane or other fuels to Glade Park no longer will be allowed to deliver to their customers via Monument Road as of Aug. 1, the National Park Service told residents.
Monument Road is being ruled out as a route for Glade Park deliveries because of safety concerns that were aired in listening sessions with Glade Park and other residents, Colorado National Monument Superintendent Lisa Eckert said.
This decision deals a blow to the residents of Glade Park, most of whom use propane for heating and require shipments of gasoline and other fuels for their farming equipment. Ranchers and farmers depend on the easy access that Monument Road provides from the Grand Valley to Glade Park at the top of the Monument. The only alternative route is Little Park Road to the east of Monument Road which is longer, more difficult to navigate, and must pass through neighborhoods on several narrow, unimproved byways. Little Park Road presents many obstacles to those hauling goods to Glade Park, and increases the likelihood of future accidents.
This action by the NPS was taken without regard for the personal and property rights of the citizens living adjacent to protected lands. Harmon’s article goes on to illustrate this “bad neighbor” attitude with the words of one Glade Park resident:
“The notice comes as two federal lawmakers are considering legislation to redesignate Colorado National Monument as a national park and it undermines promises that nothing about the monument would change,” Glade Park resident Lynn Grose said.
Grose sat on a committee that in 2011 and 2012 studied the pros and cons of park status.
“We were promised over and over that there would be no change,” Grose said. “Now they’re making changes without even a national-park designation.”
This development makes national park designation more problematic because it provides a real-time example of government overreach, however the NPS must deal with the precedent which established permanent access to Monument Road for vehicles traveling to glade Park. Litigated in 1986, Wilkenson vs. Department of the Interior, was the landmark lawsuit brought against the NPS by some residents of Glade Park to establish access through the Monument via Monument Road. The National Park Service was rebuffed by the United States District Court in the final decision which gave ranchers and residents, regardless of what they might be hauling, full, free, and permanent access to Monument Road as the main route to and from their homes and work in Glade Park. Attempts by the NPS to levy fees for use of the road, as well as ban commercial traffic, were rejected by the court. The decision on behalf of Glade Park residents was unequivocal:
ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED, that a public right of way exists in that portion of Rim Rock Drive extending from the East entrance of the Colorado National Monument to the Glade Park Cut-Off, and across the Glade Park Cut-Off, connecting the DS Road in Glade Park with the Monument Road to Highway 340, and the use of that road for the purpose of continuous travel through the Monument is a non-recreational use for which no entrance fee may lawfully be charged, and the defendants are enjoined from charging any such fee or otherwise preventing such non-recreational use of the roadways. The Clerk shall enter judgment, accordingly, and the plaintiffs are awarded their costs upon the filing of a bill of costs within 10 days from the entry of judgment.
The latest decision by the National Park Service is clearly unlawful, and ultimately damaging to the hoped-for redesignation of the Colorado National Monument to a national park. It’s unlikely that this is the end of the ongoing saga of the battle for Monument Road, now waged for decades by the National Park Service against residents of Glade Park, over what is in essence, a lifeline sustaining a small ranching community on the outskirts of the Colorado National Monument.