Film depicts ‘jewel’ in valley

Greg Mikolai of Rocky Mountain PBS is recognized Thursday night at the Avalon Theatre in Grand Junction, where a documentary titled “The Colorado National Monument: Celebrating 100 Years of John Otto’s Dream” premiered to a packed house. Mikolai wrote, photographed, edited and produced the 60-minute film over an 18-month period.

Greg Mikolai figured most people were accustomed to taking in the sweeping vistas of Colorado National Monument from the safe and convenient platform offered by Rim Rock Drive.

But in creating a documentary marking the monument’s 100th anniversary next year, he wanted residents to get a little more personal with founder John Otto’s playground.

So, armed with a video camera, the production coordinator for Rocky Mountain PBS wandered around Devils Kitchen when the cottonwoods were ablaze in gold, waded into No Thoroughfare Canyon during the spring runoff and scaled the red canyons as they were shrouded in a blanket of snow and fog.

Mikolai quickly realized he was seeing the monument through the same fresh set of eyes as many others.

“The Colorado National Monument: Celebrating 100 Years of John Otto’s Dream,” the culmination of 18 months of work by Mikolai and many others, premiered Thursday night at Grand Junction’s Avalon Theatre. The documentary prompted a red-carpet rollout and a standing-room-only crowd greeted by park rangers as they entered the theater.

“I want them to take away that our wild areas are a precious asset to this country,” said Mikolai, who was later presented with an award by monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo.

Anzelmo compared Mikolai with Otto in his focus and intensity.

“He’s passionate, he’s fixed on his mission,” she said of Mikolai.

Anzelmo said she hopes the documentary creates a sense of community pride in Colorado National Monument and a desire to preserve it for generations to come.

Bob and Sally Bellacqua have served as monument volunteers for seven years, shooting video and still pictures for rangers’ use. Bob Bellacqua said he wants people to develop a stronger appreciation for what he called “a jewel in the valley.”

“This is a gift, and we’ve got to enjoy it. We’ve got to protect it,” he said.


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