Monumental myths

As thousands of people from around the country gather in the Grand Valley this week for the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, it’s a safe bet many of these visitors — who may see or hear references to Colorado National Monument — will have little clue what the monument offers.

Is it a statue or a granite slab with names carved onto it? People who have an inkling that a national monument is an area managed by the National Park Service are likely to view it as a sort of minor-league national park.

All of that is understandable, based on the publicity national parks receive compared to monuments. It’s a big reason why local groups are pushing to have Colorado National Monument designated as a national park.

Less easy to fathom is why so many people in this community continue to believe that changing the monument to a national park will significantly alter the way the area is managed and will thereby adversely affect the community. This despite two years of studies and public statements clarifying emphatically that this will not be the case.

However, given recent news reports, we believe it is important to highlight once again these facts.

✔ Most importantly, under federal laws passed over decades, there can be no change in management if the land is changed from a monument to a park. National parks are managed under the same set of rules and regulations as national monuments. There is not a higher standard for parks.

✔ The air quality status of the monument would not change, and there would not be stricter rules to threaten activities such as agriculture in the Grand Valley. The national monument is currently designated as a Class 2 air quality area, and the Park Service has determined the area does not qualify for the more restrictive Class 1 designation.

✔ Designation as a park won’t allow the federal government to claim additional land. In fact, it would make it more difficult for a president to expand the boundaries. National monuments are established by executive order and can be expanded by executive order. National parks are established by Congress, and boundaries can only be changed through an act of Congress. No one is seeking to enlarge the current 20,534-acre footprint.

✔ Park status won’t change the access to Glade Park through the monument. That access was legally ratified in federal court many years ago, and will be reiterated in any park legislation.

✔ Estimates of how park designation will affect traffic vary. The best evidence is that overall traffic won’t increase just from the redesignation, but more visitors will come from other parts of the country and world, spending more time and money here. Traffic in the monument is expected to grow as the community grows, regardless of whether it becomes a park.

Since 1916, one set of laws has controlled both monuments and parks equally, meaning if there is a change to the way parks are regulated, that change will also equally affect monuments. So, any changes the National Park Service has in mind for its national parks will also equally affect Colorado National Monument — whether it’s a park or a monument.

Accordingly, why not choose the name that represents the top brand? Every JUCO visitor knows what a national park is.


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